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Australia out of step as UK reviews deepwater drilling

The Australian Greens have expressed support for a ruling in the UK High Court which will see a judicial review of their Government’s decision to grant deepwater drilling licences off the Shetland coast.

Senator Rachel Siewert, Australian Greens Marine spokesperson says the reasons behind the ruling highlight concerns about the Australian Government’s decision to allow exploration in deep water in the Great Australian Bight.

As has been revealed in Senate Estimates, the Australian Government hasn’t yet worked out how a spill in deep water would be handled – and yet the Government has granted a licence to explore in water three times as deep as the Gulf of Mexico spill site, to the very company that caused that spill.

“The Government indicated in Estimates that it plans to use a conference in August to help further develop its strategy to deep water incidents” Senator Siewert said today.

“I have very strong concerns about granting leases in such deep water, at the very least they should not be granted until Australia has the appropriate regulatory and response measures in place. The companies involved must that they can meet the required standards and have the capacity to respond to a crisis in deep water.

“The UK energy minister, Chris Huhne’s decision to grant deep water drilling licences will be subject to a judicial review after a successful legal claim from Greenpeace UK, who argued the Government failed to carry out appropriate risk assessments, with the companies associated with these licences admitting they lacked the capacity to deal with a major oil spill.

“No matter what safety measures are put in place, deep sea drilling is incredibly risky. The commission of inquiry on the Deepwater Horizon spill described it as an “inherently risky business” because of the geological uncertainties and enormous pressures involved when drilling so far below the ocean floor.

“A lack of planning in dealing with a major, deep water oil spill has now been identified as an issue in both the UK and Europe. This issue should be a priority in Australia,” concluded Senator Siewert.

Read more information on the UK claim at Greenpeace UK.

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