Taiaroa Head

OFO/DCC Submission to Petroleum Block Offer 2014

Otago Harbour

Otago Harbour

Oil Free Otago’s submission to the Dunedin City Council submission to Petroleum Block Offer 2014.
DCC now have until 14 November to correlate residents’ responses and write their own submission. All residents’ submissions will be attached as an appendix which will go to NZ Petroleum and Minerals (NZPAM), which reports to Simon Bridges, Minister of Energy and Resources.

Submission on Petroleum Block Offer 2014 consultation

To the Dunedin City Council

policy@dcc.govt.nz

31 October 2013

From: OIL FREE OTAGO

Email contact details: oilfreeotago@gmail.com

Kia ora

Oil Free Otago acknowledge the government’s commitment to consult with iwi and hapu about Block Offer 2014 and are pleased to accept the mana whenua’s important role as Kaitiaki of the coast and ocean on behalf of us all. However, we do not accept that other residents will not be consulted. Even local authorities are not being consulted, but onlynotified to ensure an informed and robust process“. This is not acceptable.

The risks to Dunedin (and in the wider context to all New Zealanders and to the world) of deep sea drilling off the Otago coast and anywhere in our exclusive economic zone are so serious that we recommend that all deep sea exploration and drilling in NZ should cease. The two major risks are local, to the environment and the economy and global, to climate change.

Environment and economy 

A major gas blowout or oil spill has the potential to ruin Dunedin’s environment and economy, due to its effect on: 

Our Otago coast’s clean unspoilt beauty, its unique wildlife and the special lifestyle it affords (surfing, diving, boating etc) – and on the importance of NZ’s 100% pure clean green brand.

Dunedin’s ecotourism which brings around $100 million annually into our local economy. Wildlife that would be affected includes:

yellow eyed penguins

Northern royal albatross (more albatross species breed in our exclusive economic zone than anywhere else in the world)

world’s rarest sea lion, the NZ sea lion

38 of the world’s 80 whale and dolphin species breed here. Whales are returning to the Otago coast after many years’ absence.

The fishing industry – commercial, recreational and customary. Fishing is New Zealand’s fifth largest industry, generating $1.2 – 1.5 billion per year. The fishing industry in the Gulf of Mexico may take 50 years to recover from the Deepwater Horizon disaster – if ever. (John Wathen http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yduv3APYawA)

Rather than being an economic boon as many suggest or believe, the industry is an economic and social burden. 

The oil and gas industry has already cost taxpayers $46 million this year. (http://awsassets.wwfnz.panda.org/downloads/wwf_fossil_fuel_finance_nz_subsidies_report.pdf)

We could not afford a disaster. The Deepwater Horizon disaster cost Americans $42.2 billion. (wikipedia)

Jobs will not be for local people – they will be specialist positions for foreign or out of town experts (http://www.med.govt.nz/sectors-industries/natural-resources/pdf-docs-library/oil-and-gas/economic-contribution-of-oil-and-gas-industry/BERL%20report.pdf)

Infrastructure costs, for example improving Dunedin airport for larger industry traffic, would likely fall upon the ratepayer and taxpayer with no regional royalties from the industry.

Concern of the social impact of a large extractive industry offshore – what effects will fly-in fly-out workers have on our safe Dunedin social fabric?

It is economically naive to invest money and energy in exploring for and producing a product that must not be used due to climate change (see below). For our local community to depend on oil or gas for its wellbeing makes no economic or social sense whatsoever (eg: Environmental Debt, Amy Larkin, 2013 p150)

Anadarko were a 25% co-owner of the Deepwater Horizon disaster and received daily reports of events leading up to that disaster. It appears they were not a passive investor as asserted by NZ’s Anadarko CEO on Campbell Live 8 October 2013. This assertion and other incidents, such as a US class actions against them, the Anadarko NZ companies being registered in the Cayman Islands (why, if not to avoid paying income tax?), their lack of transparency whilst visiting Dunedin and their use of military counterinsurgency tactics against US citizen industry activists (http://dfw.cbslocal.com/2011/11/11/gas-companies-caught-using-military-strategies-to-overcome-drilling-concerns/) do not paint Anadarko as a trustworthy corporate citizen yet we are being asked to trust them with our ocean and livelihoods. Is this the type of company we should invite to Dunedin?

The risky nature of deep sea drilling in the New Zealand context

The treacherous southern ocean environment – weather extremes, ocean currents from the Antarctic, huge swells as high as six story buildings. (http://www.greenpeace.org/new-zealand/en/reports/Out-Of-Our-Depth-Deep-sea-oil-exploration-in-New-Zealand/)

The distance from help. Relief rigs, if available at all, could be months away and capping devices, the closest of which may be in Singapore, would take at least two weeks to get here. (evidence presented by Shell at August 2013 consultation meeting)

The inadequacy of our Maritime NZ response unit – three “tinnies” with no subsea response capacity.

The government’s use of Corexit. The government has not ruled out using Corexit in the event of a disaster. It used Corexit for two weeks after the Rena oil spill. Corexit is a known carcinogen that has been banned in European countries. It must be banned here and not used again as an oil spill response tool.

Risk data put forward by companies such as Anadarko is historical and not relevant to the untried conditions of our southern ocean.

Climate Change

New Zealand, along with many other countries, has agreed to limit global warming to two degrees, yet its policies contradict this agreement. In order to meet its obligation to the world community and to future generations, 80% of already discovered burnable carbon (oil, gas and coal) must stay in the ground. To stay below the two degree limit all coal must be phased out by 2030, there must be no more drilling for polar or deep sea (marginal) oil and gas, and the remaining conventional oil and gas must be used to urgently build up the infrastructure needed for a low carbon future. (ref: Professor Bob Lloyd, University of Otago, September 2013) It is therefore irresponsible at this time to drill for more, marginal, deep sea oil or gas in dangerous frontier regions such as our southern ocean.

DCC’s submission to last year’s 2013 Petroleum Block Offer recognized the cost to communities of adaptation and mitigation of effects of climate change, and recognised oil and gas’s contribution to climate change but did not appear to join the dots. Governments and local authorities have a duty of care to their citizens. To endorse deep sea drilling off our coast is to disregard this duty.

Alternatives

Climate change mitigation and adaptation measures must match the seriousness of the issue. National and local leaders no longer have the luxury of ignorance nor of failing to join the dots. If we are to take the experts at their word, a ‘wartime response’ to climate change will be needed to keep global warming to a level that will allow for the survival of future Dunedin citizens. Fortunately, we have the ability to make the changes needed in Dunedin and with courage from our leaders could achieve it. Changes are already being made, as proposed in much of the DCC Energy plan, such as making Dunedin a more cycle-friendly city. We have the know-how for an electric car conversion industry to begin immediately to convert Dunedin’s transport fleet. We must encourage local food and low carbon industries such as the electric tram, trains and make public transport affordable and attractive to use. We must stop burning dirty, polluting lignite and coal in our boilers and homes. And again, we recommend that all deep sea exploration and drilling in NZ should cease. There is no time to waste.

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Deep Sea Drilling off Otago – Worth the risk?

We say – oil or gas – the risk is not worth it. Why?

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White-capped albatross after Rena oil spill, Tauranga Photo from http://www.birdlife.org

The risk is ours

  • The oil companies cannot eliminate the risk of a disaster. A disaster like the Gulf of Mexico Deep Water Horizon catastrophe would ruin New Zealand’s south eastern coastline.
  • The cost falls to us – the industry does not have to pay any bond to cover liability.
  • The Rena cost New Zealand taxpayers $36.8 million, and that was tiny compared to a major oil rig blowout. The Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico has cost Americans $80 billion so far.

Jobs and prosperity do not stack up

  • Per dollar earned, the oil industry creates fewer jobs than most other industries, and most of those jobs will come from outside the region.
  • Floating Production, storage and offloading vessels (FPSOs) and Floating Liquid Natural Gas vessels (FLNGs) would take the fuels directly to export. No onshore facilities would be built – so no cheap oil or gas for us. Onshore facilities would be limited to some maintenance and repair work and some support services like hotels, casinos and a helicopter (although we have already heard they would use Nelson for a helicopter service).

We have too much to lose

  • Our ocean is unspoilt and unique. More albatross species breed in our exclusive economic zone than anywhere else in the world.  38 of the world’s 80 whale and dolphin species live in our southern ocean.
  • Whales are returning to our coast after many years’ absence. Planned offshore drilling sites coincide with their migration routes.
  • Tourists, including cruise ship passengers, come to Dunedin for the wildlife harbour cruises, the albatross and yellow-eyed penguin tours.  These businesses have everything to lose if there is an oil or gas spill.
  • Fishing is New Zealand’s fifth largest export earner. An oil spill or gas blowout in our ocean could destroy our commercial, recreational and customary fishing. The Gulf of Mexico’s fishing industry could take 50 years to recover from the Horizon disaster – if it ever recovers.

We have no say

  • We have had no say in whether or not Anadarko and Shell drill in our oceans. Beyond 12 km these companies don’t have to produce ESHIAs (environmental, social and health impact assessments).
  • Neither local tourism operators, fisheries and wildlife experts, nor businesses – whose livelihoods depend on our ocean, our clean green image and our abundant natural fauna – have had input into the decision to drill.

Burning oil & gas releases CO2, causing climate change

  • Two degrees of global warming is now inevitable – the so-called ‘safe’ limit that world governments have agreed to. Beyond two degrees the climate will become increasingly unstable.
  • Shell, Anadarko and the other fossil fuel companies already have enough discovered reserves on their books to push global warming to five times beyond two degrees.
  • 80% of those reserves have to stay unburned for global warming to keep to two degrees. Anyone can see that exploration for more oil and gas in such a risky environment is – at the very least – a poor  investment choice.

We do not need to take that risk. We have what it takes right here to develop a low carbon economy

  • With over 70% electricity generated from renewable sources New Zealand is in an enviable position. We can thrive on clean energy and remain true to the values of being an unspoilt place.
  • Dunedin has the expertise to build a low carbon economy that we can bequeath to the next generations. With foresight and leadership from the business community and elected representatives, we can show the way.
  • We are already locked in to a future of rising seas, increased storm surges and changing weather patterns. We can avoid making the future harder by beginning now to improve public transport, electrify our transport fleets, protect low lying areas, consolidate and encourage local food producers, and develop new renewable industries. There are opportunities for everyone.

oil versus gas

  • Anadarko and Shell say they are more likely to find gas than oil off our shores. They are trying to brand gas as the “clean” fossil fuel.
  • Gas still causes global warming. Burning gas releases about 75% the greenhouse gas emissions of crude oil, causing the same damage to the climate in 4 years that oil does in 3.
  • A gas blowout can be a major disaster. In 2012 in the North Sea, an Elgin platform gas leak spewed 200,000 cubic meters of gas per day. It cost $3 billion and took six months to drill relief wells to stop the leak. If this happened here, the oil companies admit it would take months for a relief well to reach NZ.
  • Gas condensate can still wash up on beaches and is toxic to wildlife and humans.
  • Accidental methane emissions from gas wells can be huge and are not factored in to Anadarko and Shell’s definition of a “clean” fossil fuel. Unburned gas from these emissions is mostly methane, which is 21 times more potent at warming the atmosphere than carbon dioxide – nothing “clean” about that.

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White capped albatross off Taiaroa Head, near Anadarko’s planned drill site. Photo by Derek Onley