Greenpeace fails to stop Raglan drilling

ELTON SMALLMAN
Last updated 07:47 20/12/2013

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Texan oil giant Anadarko will keep drilling off the Raglan coast after Greenpeace failed to force a judicial review in the Wellington High Court.

Greenpeace made the urgent application in November to force a Government U-Turn on the decision to allow Anadarko's drillship the Noble Bob Douglas to carry out operations in the Taranaki Basin.

They said the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made an "error in law" when they accepted Anadarko's impact assessment without the full annexed pages.

Court documents show EPA staff rejected advice from their commissioned expert Sinclair Knight Merz, which said the assessment was incomplete and Greenpeace said they should have sent it back.

But in the High Court in Wellington yesterday, Justice MacKenzie found the 150-page impact assessment was satisfactory for the purposes of the act and said it was the EPA's decision to make and "it was properly taken".

Greenpeace chief policy adviser Nathan Argent was disappointed and alarmed, and said the ruling confirmed their worst fears that the EPA was "weak and permissive".

"The judge and his ruling have been quite clear and they're nothing more than a box-ticking outfit," said Mr Argent. "It really speaks very loudly against industry claims that they have been put through the wringer."

He said the EPA was established to piggyback the industry through the process. He found it extraordinary the lead agency in charge of protecting the environment did not even look at the full document.

"Anadarko offered them these key documents including the oil-spill modelling and emergency-response plan and the EPA said they don't need to look at those.

"If an independent technical expert is telling them they are not doing their job properly and Anadarko were surprised by them rejecting the paperwork, it kind of begs the question, what is the role of the EPA?"

EPA chief executive Rob Forlong said the authority welcomed the High Court findings, which applied under transitional provisions in place at the time. The transitional period expired next June when the EPA would take information from additional sources under consideration.

The EPA would base its decisions on the best available information, Mr Forlong said.

elton.smallman@waikatotimes.co.nz

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