Non-notified consents for exploratory drilling confirmed

Environment Minister Amy Adams has announced new non-notified consent regulations for off-shore exploratory drilling. This means that the public cannot oppose this drilling via the consents process.

Protest groups claim this is a removal of rights of the public to have a say, but Adams says the public never had a say and this changes puts better regulations and oversight in place.

New regulations for exploratory drilling

Activities involved in exploratory drilling for oil and gas will be classified as non-notified discretionary under new EEZ Act regulations, Environment Minister Amy Adams announced today.

“The non-notified discretionary classification is the pragmatic option for exploratory drilling, and will provide a level of regulation proportionate to its effects,” Ms Adams says.

“This is part of the National-led Government’s overhaul of the laws and regulations governing the oil and gas industry.

“The classification will provide effective oversight and environmental safeguards without burdening industry with excessive costs and timeframes.”

Radio NZ used an odd headline in their report on this – New rule reinforces public’s lack of say:

New regulations mean that the public will not be able to have a say on applications to explore for oil and gas in the country’s exclusive economic zone.

Similar negative spin was put on this by 3 News Kiwis ‘muzzled’ by oil drilling regulation and lead with protesters.

The government’s decision to exempt deep sea oil drilling applications from public resource consent hearings will muzzle New Zealanders who are concerned about the risks of a spill, the Green Party says.

And Greenpeace is accusing ministers of a being “little more than lackeys for the oil industry”.

The public were never able to have any say. It could more accurately be said these changes improves regulatory oversight.

Radio NZ:

Until now the drilling, which includes deep sea exploring that sparked ocean going protests from Cape Reinga to Dunedin, has been in a grey zone regulations-wise.

But now the Environmental Protection Agency will get to approve any applications and does not need to consult the public at all.

The public were never had to be consulted.

The public will only get a say if an oil company goes on to want to produce oil or gas.

Environment Minister Amy Adams says the EPA will have the power to scrutinise any application for exploratory drilling on the sea bed or continental shelf.

Amy Adams:

Now what that means is of course is that the regulator will have for the first time the full ability to consider the proposal, consider the location, the safeguards put in place around it, the methods of operation, and any effect it could have on ?? interests, and have the full discretion to say yes or no to that proposal, and also to put any conditions on it that are needed.

But in terms of it being non-notified, well the public has no say on them now and never has had,  and so you know I think that’s left out of this debate. People are talking as if the ability to feed in this is removed.

There has never been a process for the public to have their say on exploratory drilling, and there’s never been a process for  any regulator oversight.

Now we say that’s not good enough, and actually we want there to be very full robust consideration of the proposal, but the reality is that every day around New Zealand we have regulators in all sorts of fields making any number of decisions, the vast majority of which are not full public processes that are made by the regulators on the application in front of them and their own expert analysis of it.

It’s far the minority of times where there are processes that need to go through that full public debate.

RNZ: “Amy Adams insists the public can put it’s trust in the Environmental Protection Authority to limit the risks.

Adams: I know the EPA are going through a huge effort to ensure that they provide a very very robust and careful analysis. 

And yes there are risks in these proposals, but the best information I have seen suggests that risk is well under one percent, probably in the order of 0.2%  chance of there being a loss of control event, and the reality is that’s far less than the risk of the sort of activities like flying claims and the like that we have our regulators sign off all the time, and we don’t suggest that there should be a full public process on, you know, civil aviation consideration of whether the planes are fit to fly and the like, because it really is, the important thing is the proper technical consideration of the management of that risk.

Public consultation is often used as a means of opposing and trying to prevent controversial things from happening.

There are groups that oppose all off-shore drilling and if public consultation was allowed they would be likely to use any and all means to delay and prevent anything from happening. That’s what they are really complaining about.