Woodside Energy Ltd
Woodside Energy Ltd (Question No. 12) Senator Siewert asked the Minister representing the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, upon notice, on 28 September 2010:
(1) Why was approval given for Woodside Energy Ltd to carry out marine seismic and near-shore seismic refraction geotechnical surveys, starting on 25 May 2010, at Browse Basin and off the coast of James Price Point in the north-west of Western Australia, during the whale migration period when it is known that this area is one of the most significant humpback whale nurseries in the world.
(2) Is the Minister aware that noise from oil and gas seismic testing can hinder whale communication and threaten the whale’s ability to navigate, kill prey and reproduce.
(3) Was this seismic survey assessed as a controlled action under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999; if not, why not.
Senator Conroy—The Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(1) In March 2010 Woodside Energy Ltd (Woodside) referred a proposed seismic survey, approximately 40 kilometres offshore from Broome, under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). Woodside committed to undertaking the survey in accordance with departmental seismic-whale interaction guidelines, and agreed to conduct the survey between April and June 2010. This time is outside the peak migration period for the Humpback whale, which migrates annually to the calving area 100 kilometres north of Broome between mid-July and mid-August. Additional management measures were also required, including having a dedicated Marine Mammal Observer onboard.
The delegate of the Minister was satisfied that a significant impact to this listed vulnerable and migratory species was unlikely. Therefore, the action was determined to be ‘not a controlled action because the Minister believes it will be taken in a particular manner’.
The Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities is also aware of three near shore seismic refraction geotechnical surveys undertaken by Woodside in the region offshore of James Price Point during 2010. The Department has looked into two of these activities and concluded that they were low impact activities, unlikely to require EPBC Act approval. The third is still under consideration.
(3) No. See (1) above.