An overdue government report on the “benefits, impacts and risks” of petroleum development across the East Coast is a sloppy marketing campaign for the industry paid for by taxes and council rates, according to some councillors from Gisborne and the Hawkes Bay.
Gisborne District Councillor Manu Caddie said the $130,000 report released today was originally due in November and the lack of a good news story must be embarrassing for the Government. “The study is riddled with errors, clearly biased and provides less than half of the information promised in the Terms of Reference” said Mr Caddie.
The East Coast Oil and Gas Development Study was funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment with support from local authorities on the East Coast from Tararua to Gisborne.
“The study makes some optimistic claims about benefits but glosses over the risks and has almost no worthwhile analysis of the economic impacts let alone social and cultural impacts of this industry should it come to dominate the region” said Mr Caddie.
“One of the few redeeming features of the report is that, based on geological analysis and economic modelling, it suggests commercial petroleum development in the region is highly unlikely” said Mr Caddie. “The study provides a good case for the government to support industries that will produce more sustainable, long-term employment with much lower risk to the environment and existing primary industries.”
One of the bitter ironies of the report is that it relies on production scenarios supplied by Apache Corporation, a company that has since pulled out of exploration in the region. While the report tries to reassure the public and decision makers that well integrity is not a risk, just last week Apache Corporation had a blowout at an exploratory well being drilled only 330m below the surface near New Orleans.
Similarly the study suggests a subsurface safety valve eliminates the risk of hydrocarbon or chemical leaks should a well be compromised, yet according to the US Minerals Management Service such valves have a ‘high failure rate’.
Hawkes Bay Regional Councillor Liz Remmerswaal said the study is inconsistent and selectively quotes from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s interim report on fracking.
“The PCE report identified seven key concerns about any petroleum exploration or production on the East Coast and while the MoBIE study says it will not make recommendations it then suggests the questions raised by the PCE do not need to be addressed before exploration starts” said Ms Remmerswaal.
The PCE report also provides evidence on how reinjection processes used in fracking operations overseas have caused significant earthquakes. The MoBIE report is not only silent on these concerns, it recommends the reinjection of waste products from the drilling process.
Both councillors believe the government and councils should commit similar funds to a study on sustainable energy opportunities for the region.
Last month a government-funded trade delegation visited DLR, one of the world’s leading energy market analysts, the same organisation that was recently commissioned by Greenpeace to produce a plan for 100 percent renewable energy use by 2050 for New Zealand.
The Greenpeace report reveals that 250 companies in New Zealand are already researching and commercialising clean technology with Investment NZ suggesting at least 60 of these are world-class enterprises. These companies have potential revenues of $7.5-22billion, significantly higher than the total revenue for even the most optimistic East Coast petroleum development scenarios. The Greenpeace report also provides evidence that clean energy jobs are more secure, safer, often pay better and are created at 3-4 times the number of fossil fuel jobs for the same investment.
“The MoBIE study has some generous claims about how many local people will be employed but why they assume at least half will be local residents is unclear, especially as Apache Corporation representatives speaking at public presentations very clearly refused to promise any direct local employment in the industry” said Mr Caddie.
The report identifies known aquifers in the region and discusses their protection and exclusion from exploration zones though some confusion exists about how the Napier MP and Minister for Local Government Chris Tremain claimed credit for excluding aquifer areas in Hawkes Bay but no where else in country.
“The Minister acknowledges the significant risk to aquifers during drilling and production phases but has only focused on protecting his home patch” said Mr Caddie. The study suggests excluded areas should be identified through changes to regional and district plans.
“It’s a bit fresh that this study is launched the same week as Hawkes Bay Regional Council is asking for a drought to be declared and the study says fracking requires ‘large volumes of water’” said Ms Remmerswaal. “But other than implying a massive new dam will solve the problem, little assessment is made of the existing competition for scarce water resources let alone the impacts of a new industry requiring large volumes to be used and contaminated in the process.”
The councillors are also concerned that the report relies heavily on the few examples of fracking in Taranaki which has very different geology and the regulatory history of the Taranaki Regional Council which the PCE report revealed had been operating outside the law in relation to fracking according to their own lawyers assessment.
Apache Corporation announced the withdrawal from a joint venture on the East Coast in January leaving Canadian company TAG Oil with responsibility for an exploration operation in a complex area both in terms of the geological and cultural landscape. Marauder Resources which holds other permits for exploration in Hawkes Bay received a warning from auditor KPMG last year that the company may not be able to ‘continue as a going concern’.
Liz Remmerswaal 027 333 1066 (will be outside HBRC from 11am-12pm)
Manu Caddie 0274 202 957
Download the MoBIE study and government comments here:
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