Offshore Otago oil exploration versus climate change

A recent announcement that a large oil exploration programme is like to take place off the Otago coast is predictably controversial.

ODT (10 April):  Gas and oil exploration move off Otago coast

Austrian oil giant OMV has unveiled one of the most ambitious gas and oil drilling programmes proposed in New Zealand.

It plans possibly three exploration and seven follow-up appraisal wells off Otago’s coast in the Great South Basin.

The 10 oil and gas prospects are within a 100km-150km arc, southeast of Dunedin.

OMV has applied to the Environmental Protection Authority for a marine discharge consent to release contaminants to sea, the application being made public today.

“Depending on the outcomes of the exploration drilling, this could include up to three exploration wells and up to seven appraisal wells,” the company said.

The company also said if no indications of potentially commercial hydrocarbons were detected in the exploration wells, no appraisal wells would be drilled.

OMV will be looking for gas deposits and there is a likelihood of finding a small percentage of oil condensate; fine, light oil suitable for aviation fuel.

ODT (10 April): ‘Expect resistance’, oil company told

An Otago environmental group is telling Austrian oil giant OMV to “expect resistance”, should a deep-water oil rig appear off Otago’s coast.

The Dunedin City Council, which supports a ban on issuing new exploration permits, will be briefed by OMV at the end of the month.

Oil Free Otago spokeswoman Rosemary Penwarden was aware OMV had applied to the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) to “discharge contaminants to sea”, a requirement before it could drill any prospects in the Great South Basin.

She had spoken “at length” with the EPA last week and understood the application covered a “tiny spill” of around 250ml and Oil Free Otago would not be opposing the application.

“Climate change is now in a crisis situation …we won’t sit by and let them continue their destructive business off our coast,” she said.

She cited Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull saying earlier in the week at a public forum on climate change he was proud of his council’s stance against oil exploration.

Mr Cull said the council did commit to supporting the moratorium on no new oil and gas exploration permits, but could “informally welcome” OMV’s latest interests in Otago.

However, when pressed about lobbying OMV to base itself in Dunedin, “council wouldn’t lobby them”.

“If there was to be a base and investment then council would have to vote,” he said.

He noted council had no role to play in non-notified marine consent applications.

ODT editorial:  Oil and gas versus climate change

For many, including those who participated in or encouraged last month’s climate change strike by school pupils, the news of Austrian oil giant OMV unveiling one of the most ambitious gas and oil drilling programmes proposed in New Zealand would have seemed like a late April Fool’s Day joke.

They may have asked how, if climate change is rapidly contributing to the end of the world, such a thing could still be considered appropriate. To others, news of a major international company investing significant sums to find whether true riches lie beneath the waters off the Dunedin coastline would have been enthusiastically received.

It isn’t fair to say the first group wants no economic development. Nor is it fair to say the second group doesn’t care about climate change. It does seem fair to suggest many New Zealanders are interpreting the climate change conversation in very different ways.

As much as many believe otherwise, the issue is still confusing.

Confusion, contradictions and complications abound on this topic and the divide between those who are ”all in” on climate change, and those who are yet to be convinced, is still broad.

It isn’t that there is a simple answer to any of this. The problem is that there are too many potential answers, and many seem unsure who to believe, who to follow. And, while they consider, they want reassurance the economy will remain buoyant.

Protests against oil and gas exploration are natural and healthy. But if the time has really come to move to a war-footing against climate change, we first need to be very clear about what the enemy is. For many New Zealanders, this country’s meagre fossil fuel consumption is unlikely to be considered the priority.

Oil-free is an unrealistic goal in the foreseeable future.

 

Local bodies try political activism

The new Dunedin City Council has continued it’s predecessor in political activism, influenced by a new intake of councillors and ongoing activist pressure and lobbying.

The council voted by 9 to 4 to call on the Government to place a moratorium on deep-sea oil and gas exploration and extraction.

ODT: Council green as grass on oil exploration issue

The incoming Auckland council did similar recently – see Auckland Council votes against deep sea drilling.

Not exactly core business for councils, nor a productive use of their time and council resources.

As these symbolic moves can in no way be seen as representative of all city residents the Government can safely ignore them, and they probably will. They are local body and activist posturing on national issues.

Another attempt was made with the Southland regional Council yesterday but was voted down – but a Southland Times article hides that in what looks largely like an activist promotion.

Stuff: Environment Southland urged to oppose oil and gas exploration in the south

Environment Southland has been urged to oppose oil and gas exploration in the region.

Opponents of oil and gas exploration addressed councillors at an Environment Southland committee meeting on Wednesday, saying the fracking industry in the US was damaging natural resources, contaminating drinking water and using exorbitant amounts of water.

Invercargill resident Nathan Surendran, speaking in the public forum of the meeting, said councils around New Zealand were opposing the government’s oil and gas exploration block offers in their submissions.

Those councils opposing the Government have done so without a mandate from their residents and ratepayers.

Reverend Denis Bartley, a former oil industry engineer for 30 years, supported Surendran, telling councillors an increasing number of community groups and organisations had divested from the fossil fuel industry for environmental, climate change and economic reasons in the past four years.

Peter McDonald told councillors that environmental and social risks shadowed the drilling industry; he questioned whether the drilling industry shared Environment Southland’s vision for the region.

Jenny Campbell told councillors the biggest contributor to the global temperature rise came from the burning of fossil fuels.

When they had finished speaking, Environment Southland councillor Robert Guyton moved a motion for the council to oppose the Government’s 2017 block offer proposal for two oil and gas permits in Southland.

This is how it is done – orchestrated activist lobbying, and they claim popular support because they outnumber people who don’t get involved – most people have no idea about the political games being played.

He received voting support from councillors Maurice Rodway and Rowly Currie, but they were out-voted by councillors on the strategy and policy committee.

So while they get most of the article publicity they failed in their bid.

Environment Southland chairman Nicol Horrell, who believed there were insufficient substitutes to fossil fuels at this stage,  said if the council opposed the Government’s block offers now it would take it out of discussions further down the track.

“It’s appropriate to remain neutral at this stage.”

Southland, Dunedin and Auckland would be stuffed if they didn’t have ongoing supplies of fossil fuels. We should do what we can to reduce use, but we are a long way from the activist ideal of being oil free.

And ‘oil free’ is what activists want. From the ODT:

Oil Free Otago’s Brooke Cox said her group was relying on councillors to be ”a voice of reason”, to take a strong stand and say ”no” to the block offer.

”It’s time to think about how you are remembered as a council.”

And it’s not just activists outside councils. Stuff:

However, a council staffer said the council would still be able to make submissions on the issue in future.

ODT:

Council corporate policy manager Maria Ioannou said in a report councillors resolved in 2015 to call on the Government to place a moratorium on exploration in New Zealand waters.

”However, this position may no longer reflect the views of the new council following local government elections earlier this year.”

What is a ‘council corporate policy manager’ spending time working on ‘oil free’ activism?

The Christchurch City Council has also voted to oppose offshore drilling.

There appears to be increasing attempts by local body councils to lobby Parliament on behalf of small activist groups with the growing involvement of Green and Labour parties.

Most people don’t know and/or don’t care so the activist groups and activist councillors get to promote their agendas, which is not the core business of local bodies, nor a good use of their time and resources.