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Protesters slam EPA for ignoring climate change for OMV

Tuesday, 30 July: Members of Oil Free Otago are gathering outside the Distinction Hotel in Dunedin at midday with their mouths taped shut in protest of Austrian oil giant, OMV.

Over the coming three days, the venue will host an Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) hearing into a marine discharge consent application lodged by the oil company.

If the application is approved, OMV intends to drill up to seven exploratory oil and gas wells and three appraisal wells off the Dunedin coast as soon as this summer.

Protestors are holding signs reading, “OMV not welcome here”, “No gas no oil”, and “Give the ocean a voice”.

Oil Free Otago spokesperson, Adam Currie says the group are highlighting the fact that the public has been silenced from challenging the application on the grounds of climate change.

Section 59(5)(b) of the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf Act (EEZ/CS Act) explicitly prohibits the EPA from having regard to climate change when making decisions on oil and gas drilling applications. Section 104(e) of the Resource Management Act has the same effect for applications for consents inland.

Because of this and other stipulations within the EEZ/CS Act, the only environmental impact the hearing will consider is an application by OMV to spill the equivalent of a cup of discharge from deck drains into the ocean.

Currie calls the hearing “farcical” and says the Government “need to repeal these ridiculous clauses in their upcoming”.

“It’s 2019 and we’re having a hearing to consider the impact of a cup of waste, but not the impact of drilling for fossil fuels on the climate, our environment, the species living in it, and the future of humanity,” he says.

“We can’t even afford to burn half of existing oil reserves to avoid catastrophic climate change. Searching for more is madness.”

“OMV is an Austrian oil company that is currently drilling for oil in the Arctic. They are one of the 100 companies responsible for 71% of global emissions since 1988. We do not want them drilling off our coast this summer.”

OMV have contracted the semi-submersible rig COSL Prospector to drill 12 wells off the coast of Taranaki from October, before heading to the Great South Basin at an unspecified date this summer.

The protests will continue into the second day of the hearing with a “hearing for the animals”. Oil Free Otago will highlight the wildlife that are threatened by the drilling plans, including penguins, albatross, whales, and sharks.

“Not only are they at risk from fossil fuels leaking into their environment, but also from the impacts of the climate emergency as their world warms up,” says Currie.

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