Monday 10th April 2017
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Greenpeace says its New Zealand executive director Russel Norman was among activists who jumped into the sea to try to thwart deepwater seismic testing for oil 50 nautical miles off the Wairarapa coast.
The environmental group says the Amazon Warrior vessel is using seismic cannons to blast the seafloor to get data for potential oil reserves. The blasts "can cause chronic distress to whales and dolphins" but the protest also reflects the group's opposition to efforts to find new sources of oil, a fossil fuel tied to global warming.
Chevron and Norwegian oil company Statoil teamed up in 2014 to take an interest in three blocks in the little-explored Pegasus Basin off the Wairarapa, taking advantage of a little-known scheme that encourages seismic data collection by entrepreneurial private firms which can then market the information to oil companies and can keep the information for 15 years before it becomes public property.
The area of the blocks matches where New York Stock Exchange-listed multinational oil and gas services company Schlumberger had shot seismic surveys, having applied for and been awarded prospecting licences by the government agency, New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals.
A joint venture between Chevron New Zealand Exploration and Statoil New Zealand were granted three offshore petroleum exploration permits in the Pegasus basin in the 2014 block offer, gaining access to an area amounting to 26,029 square kilometres in total. To win the permits, the JV agreed to committed work programmes including 2D and 3D seismic data and "comprehensive frontier basin exploration studies & surveys," according to the announcement at the time. Chevron is the operator of the permits.
Greenpeace said in a statement that its swimmers had managed to force the oil exploration ship to halt its operations and deviate off course, which the group said was a breach of the so-called Anadarko amendment, an amendment to the Crown Minerals Act in 2013 that made it a criminal offence to interfere with offshore oil and gas structures and established a 500 metre non-interference zone around any structure or ship engaged in exploration.
Russel said in the statement that "neither the government nor the oil industry can stifle people across New Zealand peacefully rising up against this mad pursuit of new oil to burn in the midst of what is nothing less than a climate emergency."
Statoil and Chevron have permits to drill to "extreme depths of up to three kilometres" if oil is found – "twice as deep as Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico, which caused the world’s largest and most devastating oil spill in 2010," he said.
Greenpeace had been tailing the Amazon Warrior for two days, using its boat the Taitu, it said.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment, which includes NZ Petroleum & Minerals, wasn't immediately available to comment on the situation.
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