Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Amendment (Fight for Australia’s Coastline) Bill 2022

Bill home page  


Download WordDownload Word


Download PDFDownload PDF

 

 

 

 

2022

 

 

 

 

 

THE PARLIAMENT OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA

 

 

 

 

 

SENATE

 

 

 

 

 

OFFSHORE PETROLEUM AND GREENHOUSE GAS STORAGE AMENDMENT (FIGHT FOR AUSTRALIA’S COASTLINE) BILL 2022

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EXPLANATORY MEMORANDUM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Circulated by authority of Senator Whish-Wilson)

 



 

OFFSHORE PETROLEUM AND GREENHOUSE GAS STORAGE AMENDMENT (FIGHT FOR AUSTRALIA’S COASTLINE) BILL 2022

 

OUTLINE

 

The Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Amendment (Fight for Australia’s Coastline) Bill 2022 (the Bill) proposes changes to the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006 (Cth) (OPGGS Act) that would cancel Petroleum Exploration Permit 11 in the Sydney Basin (PEP11), T/49P at King Island (King Island), prohibit the granting of any application for V21-3 at the Otway Basin (Otway Basin) and prohibit any future petroleum exploration or exploitation in these three areas.

We need to stop the expansion of offshore drilling operations in our oceans. Pollution from burning fossil fuels is the primary cause of the climate crisis, and marine life is put in danger by the use of sonic air guns. Coastal economies depend on healthy sea waters, and seismic testing is a threat to our fishing communities.

 

Despite the increasing pressure on governments to act on fossil fuel induced global heating, the Australian government announced acreage releases in multiple areas of Commonwealth waters. These include off the coast of King Island and the Otway Basin. While the latter is currently a vacant title, it remains available for potential acreage releases in the future.

This bill delivers protection to the Australian oceans, biodiversity, and local economies of multiple communities across Australia. Furthermore, the bill is consistent with the realities of the responsibility of the government, to protect Australians from the impact of the climate crisis and fossil-fuel related ventures that increase the public health risk.

The regulatory framework for petroleum exploration and recovery is covered by the OPGGS Act. The National Offshore Petroleum Titles Administrator manages offshore oil and gas exploration, and storage titles.

The ‘Joint Authority’ is the decision maker under the OPGGS Act. Where decisions are to be made under the Act in relation to the offshore area of a State, the Joint Authority comprises the responsible State minister and the responsible Commonwealth Minister. The responsible Commonwealth Minister is the final decision maker. The Joint Authority’s functions include but are not limited to the grant/refusal of offshore petroleum titles, variation, suspension and extension of title conditions, and renewal, surrender and cancellation of titles.

Under the OPGGS Act, subsection 99(1) petroleum exploration permits are granted by the Joint Authority. Subsection 102(1) and sections 121-122A allow for the grant to be for an initial period of six years and may be renewed for a maximum of two five-year periods, or additional periods, depending on specific circumstances. Subsection 275(1) allows for the Joint Authority to cancel a permit, with the grounds for cancellation set out in section 274.

The three areas covered by this bill are: (1) Otway Basin (V/21-3), (2) King Island (T/49P), and (3) Sydney Basin (PEP11).

 

Area 1 - Otway Basin: this area was included in the National Offshore Petroleum Titles Administrator’s Notice of Invitation for Work Program Petroleum Exploration Permit Application (that is, a release of acreage) on 24 June 2021. Applicants had until 3 March 2022 to submit an application proposing a work program, but no applications were received. Nonetheless, the acreage is a vacant title, open to potential exploitation in the future.

Area 2 - King Island: ConocoPhillips Australia SH1 Pty Ltd, in an 80-20 joint venture partnership with 3D Oil T/49P Pty Ltd, holds an exploration permit for this area. The current permit is due to expire on 21 August 2024. The permit covers 73 blocks over an area of 4,689.58 km.

The titleholders also hold a number of related Petroleum Access Authorities (T-05-AA, VIC-24-AA); both were granted on 9 August 2021, for a period of 180 days, for the purpose of conducting the Sequoia 3D Marine Seismic Survey.

Area 3 - Sydney Basin: Asset Energy Pty Ltd (a wholly owned subsidiary of Advent Energy Pty Ltd), in an 85-15 joint venture partnership with Bounty Oil & Gas NL, holds an exploration permit for this area. The petroleum exploration permit (PEP) was first granted on 24 June 1999 and has been subject to a number of suspensions and extensions. The permit was renewed 13 August 2012, at which time the scope of the PEP was reduced from 129 whole or part blocks to 64 whole or part blocks over an area of 4,575.41 km 2 . The OPGGS Act (sections 122-124) provides limits on the renewal of petroleum exploration permits which essentially result in the halving of the permitted exploration area.

On 8 January 2018 the permit holders were granted a suspension of compliance with permit obligations and extension of the term of the permit for 30 months, resulting in an expiry date of 12 February 2021. However, on 23 January 2020, Asset Energy submitted an application for a further suspension, extension and variation, and on 4 February 2021 submitted a second application for a further suspension and extension. The National Offshore Petroleum Titles Administrator’s (NOPTA) NEATS Public Portal states in relation to the application for a suspension, extension and variation ‘submitted’ on 23 January 2020 that the application was ‘not approved’ on 30 March 2022. The status of the second application for a suspension and extension, as lodged on 4 February 2021, is less clear; and shows as ‘further information required’ and ‘under assessment’. Thus, it appears that the Joint Authority is yet to make a decision.

BACKGROUND ON SEISMIC TESTING

The New Zealand government has banned all new seismic testing and oil and gas drilling off its coasts. Denmark, the EU’s largest oil producer, has also announced a transition to do the same, phasing out offshore oil and gas drilling by 2050 . There is a very active debate in the US, where similar legislation has been introduced, and other nations.

This legislation follows on from the Making Waves inquiry undertaken by the Environment and Communications References Committee, completed in June 2021. The committee heard an abundance of evidence detailing the risks to our oceans and fisheries from ongoing oil and gas exploration.

No witness disputed that seismic testing is potentially harmful and under-researched: what was in dispute was whether this harm was material enough to require more research, tougher regulation, operational changes, compensation schemes or a moratorium/ban on new seismic surveying.

A principle of ecologically sustainable development is that if there are threats of serious or irreversible environmental damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent environmental degradation (the 'precautionary principle').

The Australian community expects the precautionary principle to be applied in favour of the environment, not in favour of exploration and commercial interests, and be applied to any reasonable threat of environmental damage, not just a threat of serious or irreversible environmental damage.

For the first time ever, evidence from all stakeholders came together, from both the fishing and the oil and gas industries to environmental NGOs, governments, scientists, academics, and community groups.

Testimony to the committee demonstrated what has become a David and Goliath stand-off, with a handful of multinational oil and gas industry giants on one side, and multi-generational local fishing communities and ocean lovers on the other.

This Bill will ensure that:

·          PEP11 and King Island cease to be in force two months after the Royal Assent to this Bill;

·          with no permit to cancel, applications for the Otway Basin will simply be prohibited from consideration;

·          the Joint Authority cannot consider or continue to consider an application for PEP11 or King Island including any that are currently before the Joint Authority; 

·          the Joint Authority cannot invite applications for the grant of petroleum exploration permit or petroleum exploration license over PEP11, King Island or Otway Basin blocks; and 

·          the Joint Authority or Titles Administrator cannot grant petroleum retention leases, petroleum exploration permits, petroleum special prospecting authorities, petroleum access authorities, petroleum production licenses, infrastructure licenses, pipeline licenses, and petroleum scientific investigation consents.

 

 

 

 

NOTES ON CLAUSES

Clause 1: Short Title

1.         This clause specifies the short title of the Bill as the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Amendment (Fight for Australia’s Coastline) Act 2022.

Clause 2: Commencement

2.         This clause provides for the commencement of the Act on the day after it receives Royal Assent.

Clause 3: Schedules

3.         Each Act specified in a Schedule to this Act is amended or repealed as is set out in the applicable items in the Schedule.  Any other item in a Schedule to this Act has effect according to its terms.

 

Schedule 1—Amendments

 

Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2007

 

Item 1—At the end of Part 2.14

 

4.         This item adds section 286D, section 286E and section 286F to the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2007 .

 

286D  Prohibition on exploration - Sydney Basin

 

5.         Subsection (1) provides that PEP11 ceases to be in force 2 months after this section commences.

 

6.         Subsections (2), (3) and (4) prevent the Joint Authority from inviting, considering or continuing to consider a PEP11 application that has not been finally determined as at the date of commencement of the provision.

 

7.         These subsections are designed to ensure that if, as at the date of commencement of the provision, the Joint Authority has not decided the titleholders’ two extant applications for suspension of conditions and extension of PEP11, then it must not continue considering those applications. These provisions are designed to work with subsections (5) and (6), which would prevent the Joint Authority from granting the aforementioned applications for suspension and extension, as well as any other applications for suspension and extension relating to PEP11.

 

8.         Paragraph (5)(a) prohibits the Joint Authority and Titles Administrator from granting any of the permits, consents, authorities, leases and licences provided for by Ch 2 of the OPGGS Act, in any part of the area that has been subject to PEP11 (including when PEP11 was in force by virtue of the now-repealed Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act 1967 (Cth)).

 

9.         Paragraph (5)(b) prohibits the Joint Authority from renewing, varying or suspending a condition of any offshore petroleum titles (i.e. the permits, consents, authorities, leases and licences provided for by Ch 2 of the Act) in a PEP11 block. If the two current applications for suspension and extension made by the titleholder in relation to PEP11 remain extant as at the date of this provision coming into force, the provision would prevent the Joint Authority from granting those applications.

 

10.       Subsection (6) ensures that the prohibitions in subsection (5) apply notwithstanding that the titleholder may have applied for the grant, renewal, variation or suspension before the provision’s commencement.

 

11.       Subsection (7) defines the terms “earlier PEP11”; “PEP11”, “PEP11 application” and “PEP11 block”. The definitions interact to ensure that the prohibitions effected by subsection (4) apply in any area that has ever been subject to PEP11.

 

286E  Prohibition on exploration - King Island

 

12.       Subsection (1) provides that T/49P ceases to be in force 2 months after this section commences.

 

13.       Subsections (2), (3) and (4) prevent the Joint Authority from inviting, considering or continuing to consider a T/49P application that has not been finally determined as at the date of commencement of the provision.

 

14.       These sections are designed to ensure that if, as at the date of commencement of the provision, the Joint Authority has not decided any applications for suspension of conditions and extension of T/49P, then it must not continue considering those applications. These provisions are designed to work with subsections (5) and (6), which would prevent the Joint Authority from granting any applications for suspension and extension relating to T/49P.

 

15.       Paragraph (5)(a) prohibits the Joint Authority and Titles Administrator from granting any of the permits, consents, authorities, leases and licences provided for by Ch 2 of the OPGGS Act, in any part of the area that has been subject to T/49P.

 

16.       Paragraph (5)(b) prohibits the Joint Authority from renewing, varying or suspending a condition of any offshore petroleum titles (i.e. the permits, consents, authorities, leases and licences provided for by Ch 2 of the Act) in a T/49P block.

 

17.       Subsection (6) ensures that the prohibitions in subsection (5) apply notwithstanding that the titleholder may have applied for the grant, renewal, variation or suspension before the provision’s commencement.

 

18.       Subsection (7) defines the terms “T/49P”, “T/49P application” and “T/49P block”. The definitions interact to ensure that the prohibitions effected by subsection (4) apply in any area that has ever been subject to T/49P.

 

286F  Prohibition on exploration - 12 Apostles

 

19.       Subsections (1), (2) and (3) prevent the Joint Authority from inviting, considering or continuing to consider a V21-3 application that has not been finally determined as at the date of commencement of the provision.

 

20.       These subsections are designed to ensure that if, as at the date of commencement of the provision, the Joint Authority has not finally determined any relevant applications, then it must not continue considering those applications.

 

21.       Paragraph (4)(a) prohibits the Joint Authority and Titles Administrator from granting any of the permits, consents, authorities, leases and licences provided for by Ch 2 of the OPGGS Act, in any part of the area that has been subject to V21-3.

 

22.       Paragraph (4)(b) prohibits the Joint Authority from renewing, varying or suspending a condition of any offshore petroleum titles (i.e. the permits, consents, authorities, leases and licences provided for by Ch 2 of the Act) in a V21-3 block.

 

23.       Subsection (5) ensures that the prohibitions in subsection (4) apply notwithstanding that an applicant may have applied for the grant, renewal, variation or suspension before or after the provision’s commencement.

 

24.       Subsection (6) defines the terms “V21-3”, “V21-3 application” and “V21-3 block”. The definitions interact to ensure that the prohibitions effected by subsection (3) apply in any area that has ever been subject to V21-3.



 

Statement of Compatibility with Human Rights

Prepared in accordance with Part 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011

 

Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Amendment (Fight for Australia’s Coastline) Bill 2022

 

This Bill is compatible with the human rights and freedoms recognised or declared in the international instruments listed in section 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011 .

 

Overview of the Bill

This Bill will ensure that:

·          PEP11 and King Island cease to be in force two months after royal assent to this Bill;

·          with no permit to cancel, applications for the Otway Basin/12 Apostles blocks will simply be prohibited from consideration.

·          the Joint Authority cannot consider or continue to consider an application for PEP11 or Kind Island including any that are currently before the Joint Authority; 

·          the Joint Authority cannot invite applications for the grant of petroleum exploration permit or petroleum exploration license over PEP11, King Island or Otway Basin/12 Apostles blocks; and 

·          the Joint Authority or Titles Administrator cannot grant petroleum retention leases, petroleum exploration permits, petroleum special prospecting authorities, petroleum access authorities, petroleum production licenses, infrastructure licenses, pipeline licenses, and petroleum scientific investigation consents.

Human rights implications

This Bill does not engage any of the applicable rights or freedoms, other than to promote the safety and wellbeing of people by helping to ensure a safe climate and protect biodiversity.

This bill engages the following human rights:

 

●        The right to life, enshrined in Article 6(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;

●        The right to an adequate standard of living under Article 11(1) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights;

●        The right to health under Article 12(1) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights;

●        The right to self-determination as enshrined in Article 1 of both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights;

●        A child’s inherent right to life under Article 6(1) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child ( CRC ) along with a child’s right to the highest attainable standard of health under Article 24(1) of the CRC and Article 27(1) of the CRC which preserves the rights of the child to an adequate standard of living which promotes their development.

The climate and biodiversity crises are human rights crises. Fossil fuel mining, its subsequent greenhouse gas emissions, and harmful impact on oceanic life, represent a clear and present danger to the promotion and protection of human rights, including the right to life, health, food, water and housing.

Under current Australian law, the government has a duty of responsibility to prevent harm or injury to children arising from climate crisis. This duty extends to any future fossil fuel project, where it is reasonable to conclude that the project will significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions, and increase the risk of harm or death to children.

Climate crisis is a clear and present threat to human life, contributing to increasing extreme weather events such as heatwaves, droughts, bushfires and flood. These events generate conditions that threaten lives and the safety of communities. Furthermore, the damage to oceanic biodiversity from seismic testing represents a threat to food security. Without mitigating and adapting to these impacts, it is likely further deaths will occur, and human health will be undermined.

Conclusion

This Bill is compatible with human rights as it does not raise any human rights issues except by promoting safety and security of human life by minimising climate damage .

 

Senator Whish-Wilson