PEP’s Not Dead… Yet
While officially, the planned PEP11 gas field remains in regulatory limbo, there has been movement on both sides in recent weeks.
The PEP11 permit officially expired back in February and has not as yet been renewed by Federal Resources Minister, Keith Pitt. It’s still currently “under consideration”.
However, this hasn’t stopped the joint venture companies charging ahead with plans to to drill an exploratory well off the coast of Catherine Hill Bay. In recent weeks investor company BPH Energy has called for tenders to drill the well and manage the project.
“The well is planned to be drilled in 125 metres of water approximately 26 kilometres offshore and 30 kilometres south-south-east of the City of Newcastle,” said BPH Energy in a release to the market. “The drilling of the well is subject to regulatory approvals and is expected to take around 40 days to reach total depth.”
The campaign to prevent PEP11 from happening, meanwhile, has taken a huge step forward, with the announcement that Federal MP for Warringah, Zali Steggall will introduce a bill to parliament calling on PEP11 to be scrapped.
“The coastline around PEP11 is home to millions of Australians, whose lifestyles and livelihoods rely on a healthy ocean,” said Zali. “We need to stop the push for gas production off our coast. PEP11 is the Morrison Government’s ‘gas-led recovery’ in action. It opens the door to oil and gas rigs just offshore from our iconic beaches.”
Every federal member along the coast between Sydney and Newcastle – both Labor and Liberal – have been united in their vocal opposition to PEP11. Whether that opposition holds when it comes to a formal vote in parliament is yet to be seen. As Zali Steggall puts it, the bill will give those federal members the chance to “to walk the talk and put an end to PEP11.”
The Surfrider Foundation – a Patagonia environmental grantee – has led the PEP11 campaign and have swung strongly in behind the introduction of the bill to parliament. “The community is strongly opposed to turning NSW’s pristine coastline into an oil and gas field,” said Surfrider’s Damien Cole. “We welcome the bill, ensuring protection for our ocean, beaches, our local communities and coastal economy from the destructive impacts of fossil fuel industrialisation.”
Surfrider has pulled together a series of three virtual town hall meetings this week that will be held to discuss the PEP11 issue. The town halls will feature federal MPs including Zali Steggall and Dave Sharma, gas industry analyst Bruce Robertson, surfers Belinda Baggs, Layne Beachley, and Adrian Buchan, as well as community stakeholders. The three town halls – Northern Beaches, Eastern Suburbs and Central Coast – will be held this week and archived on the Surfrider site.
Banner image – Surfers scale a model gas rig at a paddle out against PEP11 earlier in the year, Byron Bay. Photo: Zoe Strapp.