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Submission: stopping Central Petroleum's dangerous new precedent for oil and gas drilling

ALEC made a submission in response to Central Petroleum’s Northern Territory Drilling Campaign. Central Petroleum wants to drill for gas and oil in the Amadeus Basin and has applied to the Northern Territory government for approval of their Environmental Management Plan (EMP). Not only does their plan pose threats to land, water and culture, but the grouping together of five separate drilling operations under one EMP sets a dangerous new precedent if approved.

Key points

  • Central Petroleum is expanding their exploration of gas and oil in the Dingo, Orange, Palm Valley and Mereenie gas fields, in addition to the Surprise Oil Field. 
  • They are seeking to develop four exploration gas wells, two development gas wells and one exploration oil well.
  • The EMP submitted by Central Petroleum groups together five different gas and oil fields development projects; the grouping makes it difficult to distinguish the potential environmental impacts. 
  • According to the Petroleum (Environment) Regulations 2016 Section 8(2): “A plan must relate to only one regulated activity, regardless of whether the activity is to be carried out in one or more locations”. 
  • Central Petroleum is also the same proponent seeking to build a gas pipeline from Mereenie, Northern Territory to Moomba in South Australia, connecting Central Australia’s gas basins more easily to the East Coast market. 

Why is this issue important?

This development is important procedurally. An environmental management plan (EMP) is a site-specific plan which outlines the environmental impacts of an activity and sets out clear commitments on how those impacts will be managed to protect the environment.

Central Petroleum’s EMP conflates four separate gas fields (Dingo, Orange, Palm Valley, Mereenie) and one oil field (Surprise), including both exploration, development and production activities. These locations span three different bioregions (Finke, West Macdonnell and the Great Sandy Desert) and are separated by over 300kms.

It would be dangerous to set a precedent that allows large industry stakeholders to submit a single EMP or environmental impact assessment for developments separated by hundreds of kilometres. 

ALEC is also concerned about the continued expansion of fossil fuel exploration and extraction in the NT.

What’s ALEC’s take on it?

ALEC does not support the nature of Central Petroleum’s EMP. Grouping five different projects under one EMP makes it difficult to distinguish the potential environmental impacts.  

ALEC considers it important that a precedent is not established enabling industry stakeholders to only submit one EMP for geographically diverse projects. 

What is ALEC doing about it?

ALEC opposes the EMP in its current form. We have urged the Minister to require that Central Petroleum complete five separate EMPs for each of the oil and gas developments. 

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