Fears for Kimberley Coast after Oil Ship Grounding
The grounding of an oil field supply ship in the early hours of the morning at Roebuck Bay in the Kimberley has sparked new fears about the risks that oil and gas drilling could pose to the Kimberley Coast, the world’s last pristine tropical coastline.
“Today’s events are a reminder that no matter how good regulation is, people still make mistakes,” said Martin Pritchard, Director of Broome based conservation group Environs Kimberley, “In the oil and gas industry, those mistakes can mean deadly oil spills with untold damage to the environment, fisheries and communities.”
“The Kimberley Coast is pristine, and it is also a dangerous area for navigation with some of the world’s biggest and strongest tides. There is a very real risk of damage if the number of supply vessels and rigs operating near the coast is increased.”
“The Kimberley Coast is the last great pristine tropical coastline left on the planet, we can’t afford to put it at risk.”
Environs Kimberley are working with an alliance of conservation groups to secure protection for the Kimberley in a Great Kimberley Marine Park that includes a network of marine sanctuary zones.
“It is vital that the Government urgently implement proposed marine parks along the coast and ensure a world class network of marine sanctuaries to protect the Kimberley Coast.”
Plans for marine sanctuaries in the Kimberley’s state waters are progressing but as yet no protection is in place on the Kimberley Coast. Plans for marine sanctuaries in the adjacent offshore waters controlled by the Commonwealth Government have been stalled by a Federal Government review.
“The Great Barrier Reef is protected from oil and gas development and has a world class network of marine sanctuaries, the Kimberley Coast is equally as special and deserves the same protection,” said Mr Pritchard.
The worst oil and gas accident near the Kimberley Coast was the 2009 Montara Oil spill that poured oil into the ocean for 74 days before the leak was controlled. Smaller spills, or the grounding of supply vessels that also lead to damage to reefs or pollution incidents if fuel tanks or cargo are damaged, are also a risk.
Martin Pritchard 0427 548 075
Director, Environs Kimberley
Photo credit: Damian Kelly Photography
Premier Barnett has warned Broome that a crocodile attack on Cable Beach could do “immense damage” to the town’s tourism industry.
West Australian Premier Colin Barnett has singled out crocodiles and environmental protestors as threats to Broome’s future prosperity while attending the Kimberley Economic Forum.
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Woodside has officially faced down Colin Barnett over his demand that the company build a supply base at James Price Point for the huge Browse gas field.
Documents Woodside released this week confirm the company will not build a new onshore supply base anywhere in the Kimberley and will instead rely on existing infrastructure
As if the Federal Treasurer did not have enough to worry about, with an economy stuck in the slow lane and ballooning government debt.
Now, one of Australia’s few economic bright spots – the liquefied natural gas (LNG) boom – is coming off the boil as well, thanks to the plunge in oil prices over the past year.
By some estimates, Australia is set to become the world’s largest gas exporter by 2018.
But the LNG price is linked to the oil price, and with benchmark Brent Crude halving since June, that will blow a sizeable hole in Australia’s expected LNG bounty.
Big gas producers have more to worry about than the immediate problem of tumbling energy prices.
Mr Burns believes Woodside’s still unsanctioned $40 billion Browse LNG project off Western Australia is also at risk in the current environment, with its final investment decision already being pushed back into late 2015.
“On-shore, greenfield LNG projects are effectively dead, however there still is potential for floating LNG offshore which removes the exposure to high Australian costs,” he argued.
Environmental impact assessors are again at James Price Point on the Kimberley coast, as the State Government pushes ahead to get the site ready for use by industry.
The proposed gas hub, 60 kilometres north of Broome, saw mass protests from those opposed to its development.
James Price Point in the Kimberley is the subject of an independent assessment of a gas hub application. Photograph: Cortlan Bennett/AAP
The WA government plans to retrospectively validate 25 contentious resource project approvals, a move the Australian Conservation Foundation says shows the proposal for “one-stop-shop” state environmental decisions is “deeply inadequate”.
The WA government is introducing legislation to provide reassurance to 25 huge resource projects which were approved by the state’s Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) between 2002 and 2012. EPA board members were subsequently found to have a conflict of interest, and in 2012 a supreme court ruling found that the environmental approval of a $40bn gas hub at James Price Point in the Kimberley was illegal.
The West Australian
PHOEBE WEARNE, PETER KLINGER AND SHANNON HAMPTON
Premier Colin Barnett warned the Woodside Petroleum-led Browse consortium yesterday that he would use his increased bargaining power to force them to supply WA with domestic gas as well as help fund a supply base at James Price Point.
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A SUPPLY base being established to support the floating LNG processing of Browse Basin gas looks more likely, with Woodside managing director and CEO Peter Coleman saying he supports it.
Putting a supply base in Western Australia was one of the conditions Premier Colin Barnett put on the state renewing the portion of the retention leases covering those gas fields that are within WA waters.
Fishermen in Broome are reporting a surge in catches after the buyback of commercial fishing licences.
Late last year, the Western Australian Government bought the two commercial fishing licences covering about 100 kilometres of coastline, from Roebuck Bay in Broome, south to Eighty Mile Beach.