Lessons from Australia’s worst oil spill ignored



[news_posted_on] 21 August 2012  | 
On the third anniversary of Australia’s worst offshore oil spill, conservation groups are calling on the Prime Minister to suspend backwards reforms to the environmental approvals process.

WWF and the Australian Conservation Foundation today called on the Prime Minister to heed the lessons from the 2009 Montara oil spill and not take short cuts in regulatory oversight by giving states and territories final approval over complex industrial activities.

“Following Montara, the Government is on record saying it did not believe that the states and territories should be vested with the authority to lead on key decisions relating to large oil and gas projects1” said WWF Conservation Director Dr Gilly Llewellyn, who led an expedition to look at the effects of the Montara oil spill.

On August 21, 2009 a blow-out from a well-head in the Montara oil field in the Timor Sea leaked more than 400 barrels of oil a day into the marine environment over a period of 10 weeks. It is considered to be one of Australia’s worst environmental disasters.

The Government’s response to the Montara Commission of Inquiry was to take the authority for managing oil and gas projects away from the states and territories and create a national regulator.

However, demands from the Business Council of Australia and state governments to fast track development approvals has resulted in plans to weaken Australia’s system of environmental laws and remove federal oversight of large projects that affect the environment.

“Montara clearly demonstrated the risks of out-sourcing authority for large complex projects to territories or states: risks which the Government subsequently reversed,” said Dr Llewellyn

WWF and ACF are asking the Prime Minister to suspend the COAG process around environmental regulatory reform and conduct a full and independent inquiry into the issue, taking on board the lessons from Montara.

“Cutting national environment protection, in the name of saving corporations extra paperwork, is an irresponsible mistake that Australians would deeply regret,” said ACF’s Chris Smyth.

“We have to make sure our national environmental laws properly protect unique ecological jewels like the Great Barrier Reef, the Timor Sea and the Coral Sea for future generations.”

1. http://afr.com/p/business/companies/offshore_oil_regulator_needed_ferguson_beBz7dOa7jes8KqS4zEpTO

Contacts:
Charlie Stevens, National Media Manager, WWF-Australia, 0432 206 592
Josh Meadows, Media Adviser, Australian Conservation Foundation, 0439 342 992
Heavy yellow oil slick, Montara Oil Spill Kimberley.
Heavy yellow oil slick, Montara Oil Spill Kimberley.
© Kara Burns Enlarge

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