Premier Colin Barnett will not rule out using the state's petroleum approvals system to block offshore processing of gas from Woodside's $40 billion Browse project.
Mr Barnett repeated his assertion yesterday that he had the power to stop Woodside and its joint venture partners from shifting their focus from the James Price Point site, to a cheaper floating LNG solution favoured by Shell.
"It's the state's gas, the gas belongs two thirds to the Commonwealth and one third to the state and any development, (either) on-shore or offshore, requires both Commonwealth and state approval," Mr Barnett said in Albany.
This is despite the head of the state's environment watchdog, Paul Vogel, casting doubt on Tuesday on WA's ability to intervene, saying that if the project was in Commonwealth waters it would be a matter for the Federal Government only. Mr Barnett has refused to clarify what other powers he has to stop any floating push, which he opposes because it would cost jobs.
Government sources said one possible weapon in Mr Barnett's armoury would be to refuse to grant a production licence for the giant Torosa gas field - one of the three main fields that make up the Browse resource.
Torosa is the key field in the political battle - unlike the more remote Brecknock and Calliance fields - as it is close to Scott Reef, which is part of WA, and may give Mr Barnett some leverage as without it the venture is less valuable.
When pressed repeatedly yesterday on whether he would refuse a production licence for Torosa, he would not rule it out, saying the focus was still on James Price Point.
"Well, we're not in that place, what we are doing is working with Woodside as joint venture partners to see an onshore development at James Price Point," he said.
"They have spent perhaps a billion dollars already on that work, and their project is focused on James Price Point."
Woodside as the lead operator, has consistently refused to buy into the debate, saying it is proceeding with a commercial assessment of the venture, and will make a decision by the middle of this year.
Federal Resources Minister Martin Ferguson said as a decision- maker he did not want to prejudice the outcome.
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