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Govt playing Russian Roulette with coastal communities

Councillor says Govt playing Russian Roulette with coastal communities


A Gisborne District Councillor has told the Select Committee considering a bill that would regulate the Exclusive Economic Zone that the government was playing Russian Roulette with coastal communities.

Manu Caddie, one of 129 submitters on the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf Bill, was speaking to the Local Government and Environment Select Committee today when he explained that oiled debris from the Rena was now washing up on Gisborne city beaches and a “one pager” of rules for EEZ exploration applications was grossly insufficient.

Mr Caddie said the Bill does not provide details on what the new regulations will be, resources to clean up anything but a minor spill are non-existent and the public should have input on the detail of rules governing exploration and extraction in the EEZ.

“If the Interim Impact Assessment Guidelines become the requirements within the EEZ Act then they omit detailed baseline sampling of the current state of the area where the activity is proposed” said Mr Caddie. “How can contamination be proven if no baseline sampling is provided beforehand? The wording at present is very vague and should be more prescriptive.
Mr Caddie also pointed out that an oil slick is no respecter of jurisdiction and will not stay within the EEZ.

“Local councils and iwi authorities should be given a veto power if there is enough local concern and support for such a position.”

Mr Caddie stressed that the proposed timeframes between when an application is received, must be notified, submissions made and hearings/decisions is far too short.

“Companies could work on an application for many years and communities will have less than three weeks to read, analyse and respond to complex technical reports, Impact Assessments, financial calculations and other application details - so the timeframes should be more like 3-6 months for submissions.”

In response to a question from Labour List MP Moana Mackey, Mr Caddie said he was very concerned about the imbalance in resources. Mining companies have “bottomless pockets” compared to the councils and communities that will be affected by an application according to Mr Caddie who represents the Gisborne City Ward and is on the committee of a marae near Ruatoria. “The Government needs to provide public resources and expertise, such as university and CRIs, to councils, iwi and communities that wish to make submissions on an EEZ application” said Mr Caddie.

“All the best practice in the world will not be able to ensure deep sea drilling doesn't go wrong – the Government is playing Russian Roulette with our coastal area. Rena, Montara and Deepwater Horizon have proven there does not exist the technology or resources to contain anything but a minor spill very close to shore under perfect marine conditions.”

Mr Caddie suggested if the Committee had read the report by the National Commission on the Deepwater Horizon disaster they would know it had identified serious systemic problems within the petroleum exploration industry that have still not been addressed. Many of the same companies involved with the Deepwater Horizon spill are active in the burgeoning New Zealand exploration industry.

Mr Caddie said the safety record of applicants needs to be considered carefully and pointed out that Brazilian oil giant Petrobras has had two significant oil spills since November and two workers killed and a number seriously injured in the last six months alone. One of the spills has seen the companies involved taken to court by local authorities for $11billion. BP is in court this month trying to limit their liability to $30-40b and otherwise could face $100b.

Green MP Gareth Hughes asked Mr Caddie if a climate change clause should be included and Mr Caddie agreed with that the suggestion that climate change impacts should be considered for all applications under the proposed legislation.

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JAN 2012:
- 160 barrels of oil leaked from Petrobras platform
DEC 2011:
- death of another Petrobras employee and injury of two others in a Boxing Day accident on the PUB-03 oil rig in offshore waters in Rio Grande do Norte state, northeast Brazil
- fire on the same day at its Duque de Caxias oil refinery in Rio de Janeiro are just the latest in a series of deadly incidents and accidents earlier in the year. The refinery is already the subject of a criminal investigation launched by the Federal Police Department of Environment and Heritage after tests carried out by technicians from the State Environmental Institute (INEA) and the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-RJ) on a nearby river found high levels of pollutants during December 2010 and in August of this year. A spokesperson for the Police said the material dumped in the river violated the limits set by environmental law.
- a spill from a project co-owned by Petrobras and Chevron spewed 3,000 barrels of oil into the sea and took a week to get under control. Local government authorities have taken a civil lawsuit against the polluters claiming US$11billion in damages.
AUGUST 2011:
- a Petrobras worker was killed and his colleague badly disfigured from a refinery explosion in Argentina that was similar to another fatal accident two years earlier.
MARCH 2011:
- A major incident in the Gulf of Mexico involved a deep sea riser coming loose with a 130 tonne buoy narrowly missing another rig as the company prepared to start the first new extraction since the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Had the break happened a few days later when oil had started pumping, analysts claim it could have resulted in a disaster similar to the BP oil leak in 2010.
DEC 2011:
- An article in the Washington Post quoted engineers worried about the risks of a technology still being tested. Ricardo Cabral de Azevedo, a petroleum reservoir engineer at the University of Sao Paulo who has done research for oil companies in the US, said the industry is worried about the ultimate fail-safe: the blowout preventer, a complex device that slices through pipe to instantly cap a well in a disaster. At BP’s Macondo field, the BOP, as it is known in the industry, suffered compound failures. Azevedo said companies may be pushing the bounds of technology by going deeper than 2,500m or more of water (as is the case in parts of the Raukumara Basin). “It is a problem because all the equipment has to go to higher pressure, and higher pressure may cause failure,” Azevedo said of the BOP. “We really don’t know if it will function.”
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