Cunliffe would stop deep sea drilling

Duncan Garner pushed David Cunliffe to state his position on deep sea drilling, and Cunliffe eventually effectively said he would halt deep sea drilling until there were “standards in place”.

Garner: Ok, so you’d stop it for now and wait til you could get better standards, local standards that you were satisfied with.

Cunliffe: We’d get the standards in place and then we’d take them on a case by case basis.

Greens would never support allowing drilling so Labour would have to get National’s co-operation.

It was obvious that Cunliffe was not well informed about current standards and practices in the industry. He seems to have rushed into an issue of the day without getting up to speed first. He seems to have relied in Labour MP Moana Mackey. She opposes oil exploration

Cunliffe was interviewed by Garner on RadioLive today about offshore drilling risks. Following that Garner interviewed David Robinson,  CEO of The New Zealand Petroleum Exploration and Production Association.

Cunliffe had earlier launched into an attack on drilling:

Likely drilling incident kept secret by Govt


Documents obtained by Labour show the Government has kept secret the real risk of an incident including a major oil spill occurring at the depths of Anadarko’s proposed Kaikōura drilling site, Labour Leader David Cunliffe says.

“The Government has constantly told the public deep sea oil exploration will be safe.

“However, documents obtained under the Official Information Act show Environment Minister Amy Adams had international research 13 months ago showing there is a 70 per cent probability of a ‘reportable incident’ occurring within a year at the 1500m depth of the Kaikōura well.

“This research shows while existing shallow water sites such as Taranaki carry a risk of only around 10 per cent, the risk is dramatically increased at deeper levels.

“Amy Adams went to great lengths to keep this information from the public. In fact, she told Parliament there is a ‘very low risk’ of a large scale oil spill occurring.

“The Government needs to be honest about the risks of deep sea oil drilling, especially when the Kaikōura community and the wider public hold serious reservations about Anadarko’s plans.

“This isn’t the first time the Government has misled the public over this issue.

“Last year the Energy and Resources Minister told Kaikōura residents they would be consulted on exploration drilling but this year National rushed through legislation taking away that democratic right.

“In September Amy Adams said the impact of an oil spill would be ‘significant’ but it turns out she’d been told it would be ‘catastrophic’.

Following this there were counter claims that Cunliffe has grossly overstated the risks.

Labour ‘scaremongering’ over oil claims – Adams

Environment Minister Amy Adams and PEPANZ say David Cunliffe is misleading the public.

Garner asked Cunliffe about this: Oil drilling at Kaikoura depths has 70% probability of a ‘reportable incident’ within a year

Garner: This afternoon, big announcement, Labour said the Government had kept secret the real risk of a major oil spill at Anadarko’s proposed Kaikoura drilling site. Labour Leader David Cunliffe says he received the documents under the Official Information Act from Environment Minister Amy Adams which showed Adams had international research thirteen months ago that shows that there’d be a 70% probability of a “reportable incident” at the 1500m deep Kaikoura well within a year of it opening. How important is this information?

Has it really been kept secret? What is David Cunliffe saying? He joins me now. David, good afternoon to you. What do you think this information is telling you?

Cunliffe: …which is that based on US data and a very very reputable think tank there is a seven times greater chance of a reportable incident at 1500m deep than at the regular 300m deep that we’ve got in in-shore Taranaki so that’s a very very more risky and serious operation.

Secondly a 70% chance of something hoing seriously enough wrong inside a year that it has to be reported by ther company. Now the sort of incidents that that covers, it’s not just dropping a few tacks off you (?) off the rig platform into the sea, it’s stuff like significant injury or death, rig collision, significant pollution or spillage.

It’s not all well-head blow, that’s the absolute worst end of the spectrum, the chances of that are much lower, but I would have thought that most New Zealanders would say that a 70% chance in a year is pretty significant odds and the public debate deserves to be informed.

Now I guess the other key point you raised is we had to prise this information out of the Minister through multiple OIA requests, I’ll give some credit to Moana Mackey who’s the spokesperson in her team, we had to go to the Ombudsman to get it, we had to chisel it out of them, and it’s finally in the public domain.

This is information the Government should have pro-actively released so that the public could have a mature and sensible debate.

3 News reported:

The New Zealand Petroleum Exploration and Production Association (PEPANZ) has also hit back at Mr Cunliffe’s assertions, saying his claims are “riddled” with inaccuracies.

“Labour claims they have ‘unearthed’ secret documents hidden by the Government, the truth is you can find the report online,” CEO David Robinson says.

“Taking information out of context or using images without the commentary and research it was published with is misleading and does not contribute to a balanced conversation.”

The 70 percent figure refers to more than just an oil spill, Mr Robinson says, and shouldn’t be taken out of context.

“In fact it is saying the more people and machinery you use, the more chance there is of a cut finger, injury, fire or any other incident that you would see on a construction site anywhere.”

PEPANZ has also taken issue with Mr Cunliffe’s references to a drilling off Kaikoura, saying the only thing planned at the moment is a seismic survey.

Back to RadioLive:

Garner: The information has been out there though, it may not have been pro-actively out there but David Robinson who’ll join us shortly, the CEO of PEPANZ, he sent out a number of links to this information which has been on the Internet this morning, it’s all out there and he’s got it in his press release today. This information’s available on the Internet.

Cunliffe: Some of it has been available on the website of the think tank that did it, as I say it’s US data, but the Minister redacted it from the OIA releases, she was not prepared to draw attention to it, and in the material that we released, which will be available on our website so that New Zealanders can see for themselves, a whole lot of other data…

Garner: Do you accept that this information has been publicly available for some time though?

Cunliffe: it was publicly available in the US but mysteriously was withdrawn from the website of the think tank concerned, now I don’t know why but it’s not just something that you can easily dial up and download.

Garner: Well, the thing is that some of these reports are actually, with all due respect David, are online. You don’t have to be in America,  Saudi Arabia, Africa, Ireland…

Cunliffe: That is true, but as I said, they have been redacted from the information that the Minister had previously released under the OIA showing the Government is very sensitive about it, and the Government can’t have it both ways, it’s defence now is “hey, this stuff is online out of the US”, then why wouldn’t the Government allow it to be freely debated in New Zealand?

Garner: I think you make a fair point on that as well, you’ve packaged it up and said why didn’t the Government put this in Parliament in the information a year ago.

Cunliffe: Along with a whole lot of other stuff which they’ve held back.

That sounds to me like a a fair point too. As much information as possible should be in the public domain, readily available.

Cunliffe: This is just one data point, let me give you some background here, Labour is not saying that we are in principle opposed to all oil exploration, not even deep sea oil exploration as a matter of principle, we’re prepared to have a mature discussion with the industry about how that could safely be done, but the bottom lines are pretty clear.

Number one you’ve gotta have a best practice set of environment standards up front in place and agreed by the industry.

Number two you’ve gotta be able to clean up a spill or a blow if it occurs, currently I’m not convinced that the capacity exists, certainly not in the Government, they’ve only got three rubber duckies, that wouldn’t do anything if there was a well blow.

Garner: That’s not right though, the three rubber duckies lines and it’s well used by a number of people, but the fact is that there are a number of other boats that are in Taranaki that are available on top of those three, that’s the truth.

Cunliffe: If there was a deep water blow, then it would require a relief well to help cap the well…

Garner: It would take two weeks…

Cunliffe: No, it would take six to eight weeks, and it would need to come from somewhere like Singapore or Perth at the closest…

Garner: What’s the truth here, Simon Bridges and the industry says it would take two weeks to even begin to start to clean up a spill, you say six to eight, who’s right, the Minister and the industry, or you?

Cunliffe: Six to eight is my advice to get a rig down from Singapore or Perth, and to get it drilling and to do a replacement well cap. Now I mean Dave Robinson may have new information on that, that’s the advice I’ve received, and when you think about it, it’s assuming that a relief well is available at the moment that a blowout happens in New Zealand.

Garner: Under Labour policy you would want a relief well sitting beside the main well, before you went ahead and said yes, because to me it sounds like you’re trying to have it both ways David, you’re trying to say yes we’re ok with oil drilling, but not currently in it’s current form, we’d want a relief drill somewhere.

Cunliffe: I’m saying Duncan that we do not take a position which is opposed in principle to all exploration, right. We want to have, as the industry does I believe, a mature fact based discussion about how we get the best possible protections for New Zealanders and out natural environment. That has got to include a number of things, the best practice standards in place up front, a clean up capacity, unlimited liability cover, and a decent return to the taxpayer.

Garner: So you’d put a moratorium on all deep sea drilling until you were satisfied as Prime Minister.

Cunliffe: No, I haven’t said that Duncan, I haven’t said that…

Garner: You’ve effectively said it…

Cunliffe: I’ve said based on what we currently see in the public domain, I’m not convinced that those standards have yet been met.

Garner: So would you stop deep sea drilling as Prime Minister until you saw something that gave you confidence to let it go ahead?

Cunliffe: Yes we would need see material that gave us confidence on a case by case basis.

Garner: So you would stop it until you saw that?

Cunliffe: We are not opposed in principle, we are absolutely up for a mature discussion with the industry…

Garner: Are you opposed on current standards? And I think this is very important…

Cunliffe: No no, we are opposed to the current standards. The EEZ legislation under which this is happening is currently too weak. We have jettisoned a lot of the jurisprudence under the RMA and it needs to be tightened up.

Garner: Ok, so you’d stop it for now and wait til you could get better standards, local standards that you were satisfied with.

Cunliffe: We’d get the standards in place and then we’d take them on a case by case basis.

Robinson followed:

Garner: Listening all that David Robinson who is the CEO of PEPANZ, that’s the body that represents of course the drillers and the oil industry.

Good afternoon. What did you make of that?

Robinson: Well look I think the only secret today was what Labour were going to talk about, because this report’s been on the Internet since 2011, and certainly the industry has moved on a long way since then.

Garner: Its interesting, because he says that, yeah he accepted that actually when we put it to him, that the report has been around, but the Government itself deleted it from any of it’s responses, which looks a bit tricky.

Robinson: Well look, I don’t know what the Government’s put in or out, but certainly there’s any amount of information that people can find on the Internet, and I guess one of the things that we’ve got to do as an industry is make sure we do a better job of telling what we do and how we’re doing it, and you know we’re absolutely committed to doing that and being very open and transparent about what we’re doing.

Garner: Do you think you can do better in that instance David, do you think you could say to people “hey look there are these reports, you need to see them, here they are”? Because people, I mean David Cunliffe’s right in a sense, the average Kiwi joker’s not going to jump on and try and search for all these different reports, they need to be there for them don’t they.

Robinson: Yeah, look, they do, and I think just listening to Mr Cunliffe now there’s clearly a lot of information we’ve got to share with him to make sure he does have the confidence we have in the industry. And I think the other thing is it’s very very hard to go on the Internet and find out about any topic, there’s so much information you have to trawl through.

What we have to do I think in New Zealand is rely on the regulators and the people who are responsible for governing the industry. And if you look at the legislation that’s been put through parliament in the last two years, they’ve completely re-written the rule book for the New Zealand industry, so we’re now operating to some of the world’s best legislation, and we’re operating to the highest standards here.

Garner: What do you make of Cunliffe’s position though when he says they’re not against, Labour’s not, see I find this very, this is classic of Cunliffe when he says “We’re not against deep sea drilling, ok, but we sort of are at the moment because of the standards and the standards need to get better and you need to relief drill.

I mean is it possible to have a relief drill beside the current drill so there’s not an oil spilling? I mean, has Cunliffe got a point or not?

Robinson: Well not really, I mean there’s no jurisdiction around the world that requires a relief rig to be on standby to drill a relief well. Under absolute extreme circumstances that may be required but the odds on that in New Zealand are just, you know, incredibly unlikely.

Garner: But that’s what Cunliffe is saying though isn’t it, he said to me a relief drill or well or whatever these things are is six to eight weeks away. Is he right or wrong?

Robinson: Well I think listening to the conversation there was certainly some confusion between a relief rig and capping technology, and the two are very different and you know, the way that things are designed today, all these wells are designed to be capped and have capping technology and that’s all been modularised and all geared up to be flown anywhere in the world.

So you know, if the absolute worst case scenario was to happen in New Zealand we’d be ready to respond in a very very short space of time.

Garner: Two weeks? Two weeks?

Robinson: Two weeks. But see oil spills are a very serious matter, and I can understand Kiwis being uncertain about it, and again that comes back on us to make sure we provide the information to give people that confidence.

Garner: Have you have had David Cunliffe up in your office for a decent hour or two briefing?

Robinson: I haven’t had opportunity to catch up with Mr Cunliffe, but I’m certainly hoping he’ll make time to see me and so that I can give him the good oil on the industry and perhaps put his mind at rest.

Garner: I might text you his number after this and get the two of you together for some sort of lunch before Christmas, because that might be the way to resolve this I reckon.

Robinson: That would be very kind of you if you would.

Garner: Good on you David, I appreciate your time.

So Cunliffe comes out today and has a go at the industry, and he hasn’t yet sat down with the industry and been briefed.

You see, I’ve got a problem with that. If I was running to become the Prime Minister I actually would want to go and sit down with Anadarko and these other guys from PEPANZ and to say “ok, give me everything I need to know, this is what I want to know, I want ten hours with you, I want two hours with you, I want every document possible, give me everything so I can make my own mind up about this”.

Because Cunliffe said it would take six to eight weeks to start to clean up a spill, I said two, he said “well I don’t have that information”. It would take two weeks. All the industry says that. There is no relief rig anywhere in the world on site, that wouldn’t happen as well. Is that what Cunliffe is saying? He wants a relief rig next to the drilling rig. I tell you what, it doesn’t happen anywhere in the world.

I think David Cunliffe needs to sit down with David Robinson, a couple of Davids in the same room, maybe bring in Anadarko and see if we can crunch out some kind of resolution because if Cunliffe is going to be the next Prime Minister making these big decisions I reckon a bit of information won’t hurt anyone.

It seems from this that the industry hasn’t done a good enough job at providing information, it appears that Government hasn’t been forthcoming enough with information, and Cunliffe has launched into this issue without being well enough informed.

Cunliffe’s information seems out of date and insufficient. He has to take responsibility for coming off half cocked. He seems to have relied on Labour MP Moana Mackey to inform him, she is known to oppose drilling so has done her leader a disservice on this, but ultimately it’s up to Cunliffe to be properly briefed. Perhaps he should have talked to Shane Jones about it as well, Jones supports oil and gas exploration so may have provided some balance.

And certainly Cunliffe should be communicating with the industry and not just rushing in to the anti-Government protest of the day as appears to have happened here.

Cunliffe has ended up taking a position on deep sea drilling, after being pushed on it by Garner. He has effectively said he would halt deep sea drilling. It’s not clear if it would also apply to other drilling.

Garner: So you would stop it until you saw that?

Cunliffe: We are not opposed in principle, we are absolutely up for a mature discussion with the industry…

Garner: Are you opposed on current standards? And I think this is very important…

Cunliffe: No no, we are opposed to the current standards. The EEZ legislation under which this is happening is currently too weak. We have jettisoned a lot of the jurisprudence under the RMA and it needs to be tightened up.

Garner: Ok, so you’d stop it for now and wait til you could get better standards, local standards that you were satisfied with.

Cunliffe: We’d get the standards in place and then we’d take them on a case by case basis.

So Cunliffe would halt the exploration and drilling until he gets “the standards in place” – that presumably means legislation which at the very least would require significant time.

And it would require the support of another major party. The Greens would never support anything that enables drilling. It would  National would back Labour  to reinstate exploration.

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  1. Shane Jones versus Labour on oil drilling | Your NZ
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