Gas pipe benefits debated

Daniel Mercer and Gareth ThomasGreat Southern Herald
Routing a Bunbury-Albany pipeline via Katanning would benefit the town’s development.
Camera IconRouting a Bunbury-Albany pipeline via Katanning would benefit the town’s development. Credit: Great Southern Herald

A proposed natural gas pipeline from Bunbury to Albany via Katanning would provide opportunities to grow industry in the region, according to Shire of Katanning chief executive Julian Murphy.

Mr Murphy said he had not had any discussions specific to the route of the pipeline but thought the proposed route through Katanning was a good idea.

“It’s a good idea to track down the railway to provide opportunity for industry,” he said.

“It backs up the Super Town growth plan.”

Mr Murphy said cheap and plentiful energy on demand was essential to growth in district and the gas pipeline could provide opportunities to grow the food production industry.

Households across Perth and the South West, however, could face higher gas bills to pay for Colin Barnett’s long-promised gas pipeline from Bunbury to Albany.

TheGreat Southern Herald has learnt Canadian infrastructure operator ATCO is the company behind a “strong, unsolicited” bid to build the pipeline.

It is understood that as part of ATCO’s submission it proposed to pay for the pipeline with a levy or cross-subsidy on customers of its distribution network.

The pipeline would also follow a different route to one the State Government outlined, going through Katanning rather than Manjimup.

The cross-subsidy would be similar to several operating in WA such as the tariff equalisation contribution, which is used to ensure customers of remote power provider Horizon pay no more for electricity than those in the city.

ATCO owns the array of gas pipelines from Geraldton to Bunbury and would collect any cross-subsidy from retailers Alinta and Kleenheat.

Before this could go ahead, however, it is believed the measure would need special approval from the Government because it would fall foul of WA’s economic regulator.

The Premier pledged to build the pipeline for $135 million during the 2008 State election campaign but the plan has languished ever since amid a lack of customers in the southern port city.

In Parliament last month, State Development Minister Bill Marmion touted the pipeline as a “very important project” and referred to ATCO’s bid as strong.

Mr Marmion declined to answer questions on the proposal but pointed this newspaper to previous comments online.

Regional Development Minister Terry Redman said the current cabinet decision was to support the pipeline route through Bridgetown and Manjimup but there were some discussions of alternative routes.

“I am happy to discuss all options because getting access to natural gas into Albany through the Great Southern is fundamental to unlocking economic opportunities,” he said.

“I am also going to insist on a solution for both Katanning and Manjimup...we’ve identified those two communities as our super towns, they’re our growth centres.

“Any decision Government takes in respect to the pipeline I will be insisting on there being a solution for those two communities.”

ATCO said it could not comment on the project.

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