- The Guardian
- Issue #2053
The oil and gas platform Northern Endeavour. (Photo: Boiling Cold)
The Federal government has announced plans to dump undisclosed amounts of radioactive material, oil, and other toxins into the Timor Sea, just 155 kilometres from the Indonesian coast.
The decommissioning plan would see the massive floating oil and gas platform Northern Endeavour towed through Indonesian waters to an “undisclosed location” in Asia to be scrapped. The plan acknowledges the risk of a major oil leak happening during this operation.
It appears the department is trying to avoid any scrutiny by quietly posting a call for submissions on the plan in the lead up to the budget – with a deadline of 12th May. No stakeholders were notified, and no consultations have taken place.
Friends of the Earth Australia (FoEA) is demanding an urgent extension of that deadline, so stakeholders have time to digest the hundreds of pages of scientific documents, and to allow time for a proper public debate about the plans.
“This is outrageous,” FoEA Offshore Fossil Gas Campaigner Jeff Waters said. “When fossil fuel companies need to decommission an asset, they are faced with strict guidelines, both for disposal and for consultation, from the industry regulator.
“Because the Northern Endeavour decommissioning is in the hands of the federal environment department, it appears all those safety guidelines go out the window.
“World’s best practice is for these old and filthy platforms to be taken to an onshore breaking and recycling yard, where toxic waste is stopped from leeching into the environment.
“Friends of the Earth is demanding that the deadline for submissions be urgently extended or reopened, and that no nuclear material or other toxins are allowed to be dumped into the sea.”
Waters said that the platform should be towed to safe Australian waters and maintained until it can be recycled on shore.
“The Australian taxpayer is facing a $60-$80 billion bill for decommissioning over coming years, and dedicated recycling centres are needed to process the fourteen Sydney Harbour Bridges worth of steel that the industry wants to dump on the sea floor.”
The federal government has announced plans for decommissioning the Northern Endeavour floating oil and gas platform in the Timor Sea.
The plans include the disposal of undisclosed amounts of radioactive material, including uranium and thorium, as well as oil, and other hydrocarbons, mercury, and other toxins into the sea 155 kilometres off the coast of Indonesia and Timor Leste.
While acknowledging the risk of a major oil spill during the process, the government then plans to tow the floating platform close to the coasts of several Indonesian islands to an undisclosed Asian location, which we fear will be a filthy breaking yard with few labour or environmental standards.
The government announced this plan as the media was concentrating on the budget, and public submissions closed on Friday, 15th May. No stakeholders were told or consulted. In spite of the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority’s (NOPSEMA) new guidelines following the Barossa decision, no traditional owners have been consulted. [Control of the decommissioning of the Northern Endeavour is in the hands of the Environment Minister and not NOPSEMA, which is the industry watchdog].
In our submission, FoEA will be asking for the following:
- FoEA demands an extension of the deadline for submissions to this plan. Given the long and complex nature of the plan and its appendices. Nine working days (during the budget period) is not sufficient time for stakeholders to digest the information and form an adequate response.
- The department should be compelled to alert stakeholders and to conduct meaningful consultation with Traditional Owners and other stakeholders, particularly in light of the Barossa decision and subsequent changes to NOPSEMA’s guidelines. This consultation should also include the traditional owners of Timor Island and the governments of Indonesia and Timor Leste.
- No toxins, radioactive or otherwise, should be dumped in the ocean. World’s best practice sees offshore assets recycled in a dedicated yard which allows for no seepage of toxins into the environment.
- All radioactive material should be disposed of onshore in dedicated facilities under the supervision of relevant authorities.
- The Northern Endeavour should not be towed to a foreign breaking yard where environmental standards and working conditions are lower than in Australia.
- The Northern Endeavour should be towed to a safe location in Australian waters and maintained until dedicated offshore asset recycling centres are constructed in Australia.
- The temporary decommissioning levy should be extended and increased so as to pay for world-best-practice decommissioning and recycling facilities in Australia to cater for the Northern Endeavour and the $60-$80 billion cost of decommissioning offshore legacy assets.