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EPA wrongly delegated duty to Maritime NZ in Anadarko permit, Greenpeace lawyer says

The Environmental Protection Agency wrongly delegating responsibility for assessing the environmental impact of an oil spill when it gave an exploration permit to Texan oil company Anadarko, counsel for Greenpeace New Zealand told the High Court in Wellington today.

The EPA erred in law when it let Anadarko drill an exploratory well of the Waikato coast by not seeking key documents relating to the management and mitigation of a potential loss of well control or an oil spill, counsel for the environmental lobby, Isaac Hikaka, told the High Court.

"This is not about whether oil drilling is good or bad," he said.

Because Maritime New Zealand has responsibility for regulating a marine oil spill, the EPA mistakenly thought it didn't need to view those documents, despite being advised by external contractor SKM it didn't comply with the act, Hikaka said.

"That doesn't mean they're out of scope from the EPA," Hikaka said.

By not including the mitigation and response plans in its assessment, the EPA wasn't able to properly assess the environmental impact of those responses, he said.

That also put New Zealand's international obligations at risk, as the EPA wouldn't be able to assess whether modelling for a response to an oil spill would cross the boundary of the 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone, he said.

Greenpeace is seeking a judicial review of the EPA's decision to grant the Anadarko permit, where exploratory drilling began late last month. A judicial review questions whether a public body has made a lawful decision.

The decision in the review will have ongoing ramifications in the application of impact assessments under the legislation, Hikaka said.

Justice Alan Mackenzie is hearing the review, which is set down for a day and a half. The case is proceeding.

(BusinessDesk)