Auckland Council votes against deep sea drilling

The new Auckland City Council should have many important issues to deal with, like transport, housing, trying contain rampant rates rises.

But they took time out from council business yesterday to make a political statement.

NZ Herald: Auckland Council votes against deep sea oil drilling

Auckland councillors have voted 14-7 against deep-sea oil exploration off the west coast of the North Island.

At a governing body meeting today they said oil exploration could have a catastrophic effect on the coastal and ocean environment, and industries such as fishing and tourism.

The decision also referred to the “critically endangered Maui’s dolphin and other cetaceans living in the Tasman Sea” and to avoiding the “catastrophic impacts of climate change” and to achieving “the Paris goal of keeping the increase in global average temperature to well below 2C above pre-industrial levels”.

Voting against an offer of oil exploration in the Government’s 2017 block offer, the councillors believed the overall economic benefit to Auckland of deep sea oil would be negligible.

“Rather than encourage further oil exploration, effort should instead be put into developing abundant clean energy opportunities and strategies that can create employment and replace polluting energy sources,” the amendment said.

So a city council is voting against a national Government matter.

I don’t think Auckland City has many suburbs in the deep sea. I don’t think they even have any special housing areas proposed for deep sea locations.

The encroachment of political activism into city administration seems to be a growing thing – unlike deep sea drilling which is hardly a pressing issue, around New Zealand it is on the back burner anyway.

Turei on offshore exploration

Green co-leader Metiria Turei makes here position on offshore exploration clear on Facebook, commenting on Oil Free Future Summit Registration 2014 she said:

Definitely going and supporting, a much needed chance for us all to send a message that deep sea oil drilling is NOT WELCOME in Dunedin.

I asked her “Who are you speaking for? I think you’ll find that there is a wide range of opinions and there is quite a bit of support for business opportunities and jobs from drilling in Dunedin.”

Two people indicated she spoke for them. Turei didn’t respond directly but added a general comment:

Well, as much as I like to keep my opinions to myself… I am quite disgusted with the oil industry attempt to divide and rule both within Dunedin/Otago and between Otago and Southland.

According to the ODT, they haven’t decided which Southern city is most deserving of their economic largesse, Dunedin or Invercargill. We have to compete for their financial affections apparently. I am aware of a couple of finger gestures that would indicate an appropriate response…

That’s a curious angle. There is very divided opinion on whether exploration should happen or not but I don’t think that’s driven by the oil industry, it’s driven by an anti-oil lobby, a pro-business lobby and a general wish for more jobs in Dunedin and Otago.

A two fingered salute from Greens isn’t surprising, but they don’t speak for all of Dunedin or all of Otago. From feedback I’ve had a few two fingered salutes are being returned.

An ‘Anadarko – Wish You Weren’t Here’ campaign was launched in Dunedin yesterday. It was attended by Green energy spokesperson Gareth Hughes – and about eleven other people according to an ODT report – Campaign against oil drilling launched.

That small ‘not welcome’ message was only from a small part of Dunedin, with a political import.

Fracking fractured in Labour

There appears to be a significant fracture within Labour on oil drilling and fracking.

Shane Jones, Labour’s regional development spokesman, has starkly differentiated Labour from the Greens on oil and gas exploration – see Jones distances Labour from Greens on oil and gas.

But it seems he has also separated himself from Labour’s own Energy spokesperson, Moana Mackey, who seems to lean towards Green policies.

Jones has been visiting Taranaki with Andrew Little, talking to people in the oil and gas industry as Stuff reports in Labour duo keen to talk jobs and growth.

Offshore oil and gas drilling was an essential feature of domestic and export growth, Mr Jones said, and businesses and enterprises enabling it would get full government support.

“Sustainability is as much about sustaining the livelihood of people as it is about guarding the ecological habitat of the Hochstetter’s frog. As long as I am in politics as a Maori politician I am going to be unambiguous in standing up for jobs and people,” he said.

It was “mischievous” to talk about Labour’s policy as designed to suit the Green Party and though he occasionally found common cause with New Zealand First it was only with the aid of a telescope that he might do the same with the Greens.

Jones and Greens seem to be on different energy planets. But it also appears that Jones is following a different energy orbit to his Labour colleague, Mackey.

Labour have scant published policy and nothing on oil drilling or fracking, but in March Mackey released a statement.

Exploration not such a golden opportunity

The government appears to be drawing its economic strategy from reruns of the “Beverly Hillbillies” – crossing its fingers and blindly hoping it will strike oil, Labour’s Energy and Resources spokesperson Moana Mackey says.

“The government should be looking at every opportunity to grow existing businesses in provincial New Zealand and develop new sustainable industries that create well-paid local jobs.

And last year from Mackey:

National’s ‘drill it, mine it, sell it’ approach not the path to economic growth

“This is not where New Zealand’s economic future lies. We need to be investing instead in renewable solutions.

“As a Gisborne-based MP, I know how concerned communities up and down the East Coast are about any expansion of oil and gas exploration in our backyard, in particular the impact on our environment and our tourism industry. And who pays if something goes wrong?

Moana Mackey also questioned whether the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’ was part of TAG Oil’s plans for the East Coast.

“An increasing number of governments around the world are reviewing or banning fracking because of concerns about the safety of the practice and in particular the impact on drinking water supplies.

Mackey sounds far more in line with the Greens on this.

Back to Stuff and Jones:

There was an appetite for such growth in Taranaki but the “anti-development” message was strong on the East Coast, where oil and gas exploration is on the increase, and in the Far North, where he was attending an anti-mining hui next month.

Mr Jones said the Greens, some non-governmental agencies and some hapu were delivering that message.

Labour’s own Energy spokesperson has also been delivering that message.

And just last week Mackey was promoting her member’s bill – Renewable energy bill is the best way forward

A member’s bill that aims to address the Government’s ‘hope and pray’ attitude to tackling climate change would ensure all new base-load electricity generation is from renewable sources,  Labour’s Energy spokesperson, and sponsor of the bill,  Moana Mackey says.

“While renewable generation is currently economic in its own right, this bill provides investment certainty for the sector that a major fossil fuel discovery in New Zealand would not change those economics for base-load generation projects.

What’s going on in Labour? Does anyone talk? Does anyone try to coordinate portfolios and policies?

Clashing with the Greens on drilling and fracking will made a Labour-Green coalition difficult enough. But such big differences within the Labour caucus on an important issue like this seems like bad management and bad presentation – at best.

And it points to a much bigger problem – how fracking fractured Labour are.

Jones distances Labour from Greens on oil and gas

Shane Jones has starkly differentiated Labour from the Greens on oil and gas exploration. He has been reported as saying “Offshore oil and gas drilling was an essential feature of domestic and export growth” and “it would get full government support”.

The Labour regional development spokesman has been visiting Taranaki with Andrew Little, talking to people in the oil and gas industry as Stuff reports in Labour duo keen to talk jobs and growth.

“I am keen to defang these misapprehensions that are abounding that somehow industry has disappeared from our purview.

“Nothing could be further from the truth and if my visit provides the opportunity to reinforce the centrality of jobs, the importance of industry and the need for a future Labour-led government to assuage whatever anxieties might be there in the minds of employers or future investors then I am up for the task,” he said.

Offshore oil and gas drilling was an essential feature of domestic and export growth, Mr Jones said, and businesses and enterprises enabling it would get full government support.

Odd expressions aside, this signals a strong separation between Labour and the Greens on oil and gas. The Greens even used yesterday’s Cook Strait earthquakes as an excuse to express opposition to offshore drilling.

It’s difficult to see how a Labour-Green (and possibly Mana and/or NZ First) government could fully support offshore drilling.

Greens have consistently and strongly opposed off-shore drilling and onshore fracking, two major components of proposed exploration and recovery of oil and gas. Green energy policy includes:

The Green Party supports:

  1. Making all new deep sea drilling within territorial waters, the EEZ and the continental shelf for fossil fuels a prohibited activity (with deep sea defined as below 200 metres).
  2. Placing a 10 year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas within territorial New Zealand, the EEZ and the continental shelf.

The Greens frequently deliver that message strongly – and more, they are actively involved in initiatives to block drilling and fracking.

Jones from Stuff:

“Sustainability is as much about sustaining the livelihood of people as it is about guarding the ecological habitat of the Hochstetter’s frog. As long as I am in politics as a Maori politician I am going to be unambiguous in standing up for jobs and people,” he said.

It was “mischievous” to talk about Labour’s policy as designed to suit the Green Party and though he occasionally found common cause with New Zealand First it was only with the aid of a telescope that he might do the same with the Greens.

As stated by Jones Labour’s aims are diametrically opposed to Green aims and policies. There could be a major clash if a Labour-Green government is to be formed.

And as shown in the next post Jones also seems to be at odds with Labour’s own Energy spokesperson.

Hughes pre-empts fracking report with evolving ban demands

The Commissioner for the Environment’s fracking report is due out tomorrow, but some seem to already know what to expect – Stuff is reporting Environment report not likely to seek fracking ban.

Green anti-fracking campaigner Gareth Hughes appears to also know, and is pre-emtping the report with demands:

Green Party energy spokesman Gareth Hughes said if Wright did not make a binding stand on fracking in her report, he would call on the Government to order a moratorium on fracking until the procedure was proven safe.

“Until it can be proven we have got a robust regulatory regime to protect our environment, we shouldn’t be undertaking this massive expansion which is currently planned,” Hughes said.

Earlier this year Hughes and the Greens had called for a racking inquiry, and that’s what they got. At the time they said:

We want the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment to conduct an inquiry into the practice of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in New Zealand, and to report the results of the inquiry to the House.

They got that, so they said…

Frack No!

The Parliamentary commissioner for the Environment recently announced that she will be undertaking an enquiry into fracking.

This is great news, but in the meantime we need a moratorium on new fracking wells until the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment can assure us it is safe.

That sounded more like a wish for a ban rather than an inquiry, but that they hoped the inquiry would deliver what they wanted.

In August NZ Herald published a column by Hughes – Fracking not a sensible choice for NZ – again that didn’t sound inquiry orientated, he had made up his mind to have no fracking. He concluded:

The Government should wait until the parliamentary commissioner for the environment can assure the public that fracking is safe before allowing a massive fracking expansion to occur.

So he was still hoping the inquiry would effectively deliver the ban he wanted. He also said:

The majority of both sides of this argument admit that more information and research is needed on the New Zealand context of this debate.

Wasn’t that what the inquiry was for?

And in October: Lack of fracking data worries Greens

And today if the report doesn’t give him his ban Hughes “would call on the Government to order a moratorium on fracking until the procedure was  proven safe”.

He’s now calling for a ban regardless of the outcome of the inquiry. It was widely presumed he didn’t just want an inquiry, he wanted a ban and thought an inquiry would deliver for him.

By calling for another inquiry? Are about to hear there wasn’t enough data for the one about to be released?

David Parker’s environmental credentials

David Parker has responded to critics with a post at Red Alert, posted in full here:

I seek leave to make a personal explanation …..

Posted by  on July 30th, 2012

I see I am getting a bit of gyp from critics in the blogosphere whose latest fantasy is that I lack an environmental ethic.

Their mistake is they think that a healthy environment stands in opposition to a healthy economy.

I don’t rise to the bait too often, but on this occasion I will bite and lay out my record.

Some of these critics should do their homework.

I am 52 years of age. I tramp, ski, and swim in rivers and the sea. I have been fighting for environmental causes most of my life.

As a lawyer I fought for conservation orders that now protect many of the south island’s rivers including the Mataura, the Buller, the Ahuriri, the Greenstone, the Dart, the Lochy, the von, and the Kawarau.

I am still active in river protection. This year I am appearing pro-bono as an expert witness on energy policy in support of the Fish and Game application to protect the Nevis river from damming.

As Minister of Energy I halted the decline in renewable electricity as a % of total generation, set an objective of 90% renewables by 2025 and put in place a myriad of initiatives to achieve that end. That objective has survived the change to National, and good progress is being made towards it. Together with Jeanette Fitzsimons, I also promulgated the most ambitious energy efficiency and conservation strategy we had ever had, and played a strong hand in the design and funding of the insulation retrofit programme that National continued with.

As Minister of Energy I added substantially to the lands protected from mining by extending schedule 4 protection to all parts of national parks not then protected, including Kahurangi.

As Minister of Land Information I revamped tenure review, helped form a number of conservation parks, including the Otiake Park in the Hawkduns, stopped tenure review around lakes and rebalanced the relationship between the Crown and lessees. National has reversed some of those changes.

As Acting Minister for the Environment I unblocked the national policy statement on freshwater quality. Trevor Mallard continued this work culminating in the very good NPS proposed by Judge Shepherd et al, which was then neutered by National.

As Minister of Climate Change I successfully legislated to price greenhouse gases in all sectors of the economy covering the 6 main gases covered by the Kyoto protocol. New Zealand remains the only country in the world to have achieved that. I was named Environmentalist of the year in 2008 by the Listener for that and other initiatives.
Changes by National and a loss of momentum internationally collapsing the price of carbon have undermined it, but the architecture remains sound. It is Labour’s policy to bring agriculture in to the ETS.

While in government I read about set nets causing the deaths of Hector’s and Maui dolphins. After confirming with Chris Carter that this was intend a serious problem I approached Helen Clark who, with Jim Anderton’s help, vastly expanded the areas where set nets were banned.

I have had high profile run-ins with proponents of lignite developments, including Solid Energy’s Don Elder.
As Labour’s then spokesperson for conservation, I helped lead Labour’s successful campaign against National’s plans to allow mining in schedule 4 National parks, Coromandel, Great Barrier Island etc. For those with a sense of humour, my Christmas interchange with Gerry Brownlee on the issue, in which Gerry starred, remains the most watched clip from parliament.

I have spoken often on the need to better protect our albatross and petrels from being killed as by-catch. Similarly, I am a defender of lowland wetlands against reclamation, and against degradation caused by intensification of nearby land use.

I have been a defender of the RMA, while wanting to improve its reputation by addressing some of its arcane and hard to defend processes.

I am happy to stand on my record on environmental matters.

Which is why it annoyed me to be told I am out to lunch on mining issues.

Having a clean environment means making sure we use our natural resources responsibly. It doesn’t mean we stop using all of them.

That’s why, outside of schedule 4 areas, mining applications can and should be considered case by case.

As I said when interviewed, there is legitimate public concern about deep sea drilling arising from the Gulf of Mexico catastrophe and the limitations of New Zealand’s response to the Rena shipwreck. We must ensure that world’s best practice is followed and that the safety devices needed in the event of mishap are available and can be deployed. Even then, it may be that the deepest of wells are too risky and ought not to proceed.

In terms of lignite, I reiterated that Labour believes its use as an energy source using current technology is a dirty greenhouse gas intensive practice. We are also unconvinced it is economic, especially if environmental consequences are included, and have said government money should be  spent on renewables instead.

Our position on developments in the EEZ is that RMA type principles should apply. We sit between the Greens (who would ban most development activities) and National, whose EEZ legislation, while initially supported by the Greens, is inadequate.

We can develop our resources responsibly and make responsible decisions for our future – and a sustainable economy requires it.

Blogs on hydrocarbons

On one blog we have the market approach to phasing off hydrocarbons:

Monbiot says peak oil predictions wrong

As the price of oil and petrol rises, it will both lead to investment in alternative technologies and lead to greater drilling in previously unprofitable areas.

And on another we have the green approach:

A rock and a hot place

If you accept climate change and that, therefore, we’ve got to stop using hydrocarbons, how can you then turn around and enthusiastically endorse the Government’s pro-drilling policies?

We can’t just stop using hydrocarbons (without severe adverse effects).

At the current dependence levels on hydrocarbons and at the current rate of moving to alternative energy sources phasing hydrocarbons out is going to take quite a while. So in the meantime we either have to buy hydrocarbons that are drilled elsewhere, or drill our own.

Have any realistic projections been done on phasing out hydrocarbons? How long will it take even with a concerted effort to move to alternative energies?

What can we afford to do?

And what can we not afford to not do?

If we just stop all drilling in New Zealand we will will just keep buying oil that’s been drilled elsewhere.

I guess it requires not thinking about it too hard.

I’m not sure the Greens have thought hard about all the practical options. But one thing that’s a no brainer is to invest more in energy saving. That will reward us in the long run.