Oil & gas safety, environment protection critical
20 August 2010
Safety and environment protection critical for oil and gas exploration
The Labour Party is calling for a law change to ensure that safety and environmental issues must be considered when applications for oil and gas exploration permits are considered.
Environment Spokesperson Charles Chauvel was commenting on reports obtained by Radio New Zealand under the Official Information Act showing that Petrobras of Brazil was awarded an exploration permit two months ago off the East Coast without any environmental scrutiny.
According to the documents released, the decision was made on technical and economic grounds, and required the company only to show it would use good oilfield practices.
"This is a major issue right now. We have seen in recent months with the Gulf of Mexico disaster the damage that can be done when things go wrong with offshore drilling. It is madness, when the Government is looking at expanding this activity, not to have stringent environmental checks in place before these applications can be considered,” Charles Chauvel says.
"Applications to prospect in the Northland and Reinga blocks at the top of the North Island, comprising 150,000 km2 of seabed, closed on Wednesday. As with the Petrobras application, these will be considered without reference to any issues other than whether there is likely to be oil and gas to be found in these areas.
"The Government must change the law in this area to put safety and environmental considerations to the fore. This should be a priority for Nick Smith and Gerry Brownlee, but instead they refuse to act.
"National has no plan to protect the environment. But Labour does, and this is one of the first gaps in the law that we will fix as soon as we have the opportunity."