Exploratory underwater seismic blasts approved

The area in question that has been given permission for seismic blasts off Lake Munmorah on the Central CoastThe area in question that has been given permission for seismic blasts off Lake Munmorah on the Central Coast

Asset Energy has been given permission to use underwater seismic blasts to search for coal and gas off the Central Coast, according to the Central Coast Greens.

The National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority granted Asset Energy permission to do the testing in an area close to Toukley, Budgewoi and the Lake Munmorah Conservation Area, and north to Newcastle. “Central Coast Greens have long stood for no new coal and no gas extraction on the Coast, and extend that call for a ban to off-shore areas too,” said Ms Abigail Boyd, Spokesperson for The Greens on the Central Coast. “The majority of Australians, backed by the Greens, want more investment in renewable energy providing sustainable jobs, and reducing the risks of climate change,” Ms Boyd said. “Ms Abigail Boyd and Greens Member of the NSW Legislative Council, Mr Jeremy Buckingham, spoke at a public meeting on Saturday, January 27, to recommit their opposition to the Wallarah 2 long-wall coal mine.

According to Ms Boyd, the mine “will undermine our water supplies, and pollute our air. “We will not let this new threat go unopposed either,” she said. “Not only will both seismic testing and long-wall coal mining directly damage our local environment, putting our water supplies at risk, and impacting on our cherished marine environment, both projects are seeking to find more fossil fuel. “Only fossil fools look for coal and gas any more. “The science is in, climate change will produce more droughts, more floods, more disruption, more risk. “We must act now to meet our international targets to prevent the worst effects. “We call on the Federal Environment Minister, Mr Josh Frydenberg, to overturn the approval for seismic testing and also deny a licence for Wallarah 2.

“He has these powers under the Environment, Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC), and must act before March 7,” she said. Greens NSW parliamentarian, Mr Justin Field, has drawn attention to the dangers to marine life, including migrating whales, from the seismic testing. “Central Coast Greens will join the local community in actions to ensure that governments and investors are left in no doubt about the level of opposition from the local community,” he said. Mr Field said documents released on February 1 regarding the seismic testing approved by the Federal regulator show it risks clashing with the start of this year’s whale migration.

The details were released with the publication of the Environment Plan Summary and Statement of Reasons, coming a fortnight after the announcement of the approval. Seismic testing has been approved to run for up to four days for 24 hours a day between March 15 and May 30, excluding the Easter period. Mr Field called on the NSW Government to intervene and ensure the proposed testing for oil and gas did not go ahead. “This is the wrong project at the wrong time in the wrong area and will put at risk our precious marine life including threatened and vulnerable whales,” he said. “The approval runs to May 30 while the official start of the whale migration is June 1, last year the NSW Environment Department issued a media release announcing sighting of whales along the coast in late May.

“Allowing nighttime operation means it will be next to impossible to identify whale movements in the danger area of the blasts, risking threatened and vulnerable species like the Southern Right Whale and Humpback Whale.” The seismic testing will occur in an area that is recognised to be home to 22 threatened species including whales, turtles and migratory birds and has the potential to injure fish up to 1km from the air blasts. “The document shows that a large number of threatened and vulnerable species occur in the area of the testing, Mr Field said. “The report accepts that fin fish are likely to suffer permanent injury and death within 70 metres of the airgun and accept temporary hearing loss is possible out to 1km. “This testing will mean a massive air explosion every 3-4 seconds for a period of 3-4 days, 24 hours a day and the company has acknowledged the risk of animal mortality.

“There is a real issue with transparency and consultation with the federal regulator. “It’s unacceptable that an approval is granted before the public is able to see and respond to the environment plans of the company. “The Greens are opposed to this exploration and opposed to any plan for future oil or gas development off the NSW Coast. “We need to end the obsession with fossil fuels which is put our planet and the environment we love and rely on at risk.” A search of the EPBC Act Protected Matters Database was undertaken to identify the likelihood of occurrence of listed fauna within and around the Operational Area. The search resulted in the following areas/ species identified: 36 listed threatened species (22 likely to occur in the survey area); 42 migratory species (23 considered likely to occur in the survey area and 23 also listed as threatened); and 32 whales and other cetaceans.

Source: Media release, Feb 2 Jane Garcia, office of Justin Field Media release, Feb 5 Abigail Boyd, The Greens Central Coast Website, Feb 5 NOPSEMA, Baleen 2D HR Seismic Survey

Printed first in the Wyong Chronicle – part of Central Coast Newspapers