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Waikato law professor to speak at select committee

March 19, 2012

Waikato law professor to speak at select committee

Waikato Law Professor Barry Barton will appear before the Local Government and Environment Select Committee this week (SUBS: March 22).

Professor Barton is the Director of the Centre for Environmental, Resources and Energy Law (CEREL) at the University of Waikato and he has made a submission to the select committee on the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Bill. CEREL’s role is to bring disinterested expertise to bear on law and policy concerning energy, natural resources, and the environment.

Professor Barton’s submission focused on the fact that the Bill lacked any procedure to regulate the way an oil and gas well is drilled, plugged and abandoned. The design of an oil and gas well involves complex, specialised engineering to manage the pressure in order to prevent a blowout. How the Bill stands at present will not allow for expert prior scrutiny and approval, Professor Barton says.

Professor Barry Barton submitted that:
• The Bill should be amended by adding a requirement that before a company drills an oil and gas well it obtain approval of the design of the well, and that related well operations (including plugging and abandonment) also require approval.
• A Well Safety Unit should be established to grant these approvals, bringing together the necessary expertise. It could be part of the EPA.
• Different Acts need to be amended so that the Unit will have jurisdiction over the different aspects of the matter, ie the protection of the marine environment, the prevention of damage to valuable subsurface structures, and the protection of human health and safety.
• The same approval regime can be used for onshore New Zealand and the territorial sea, because the problem is just the same there.
• The Well Safety Unit will be a better regulator than regional councils in relation to deep subsurface operations generally.

Professor Barton appears before the committee Thursday morning, March 22.

Waikato’s Centre for Environmental, Resources and Energy Law was launched late last year. It brings together Te Piringa – Faculty of Law’s internationally recognised research strengths in energy and environmental law, sustainable development and natural resource management, and Māori and indigenous governance.


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