|Ningaloo oil plans rile greenies|
|THE WEST AUSTRALIAN|
|Saturday, 15 December 2012 10:42|
Green groups have called on authorities to increase protection for World Heritage-listed Ningaloo Reef urgently after Apache Energy revealed plans to explore for oil just 13km from the area.
Documents lodged with the Federal Environment Department yesterday show US-based Apache wants to undertake seismic surveys of an area north-east of Ningaloo Marine Park from February.
The bid comes just 11 days after Apache - the company behind the Varanus Island gas explosion - asked for Commonwealth permission to carry out similar work over a nearby area 28km from the reef.
In launching the bids, Apache has joined a growing list of companies actively involved in seeking or taking oil and gas off Ningaloo - one of WA's premier natural assets.
In October, BHP Billiton revealed plans to explore just 5km from Ningaloo days after rival oil major Shell started a $60 million drilling program near the reef.
According to Apache's latest submission, the Ningaloo area was a "matter of national environmental significance" but seismic testing was unlikely to have a major effect on its values.
World Wildlife Fund WA director Paul Gamblin disputed the claim, saying seismic activity was known to disrupt migration patterns of marine species including whales and dugongs.
Mr Gamblin said the State and Federal governments had an obligation to ensure Ningaloo was properly protected but instead they were allowing industry to surround it.
"It really is high time I think that governments indicated how it's going to manage these areas so close to Ningaloo," Mr Gamblin said.
"It's absolutely not good enough for us to see these referrals for seismic and drilling coming every few weeks now when we don't know where it's all going."
The Conservation Council of WA agreed, with a spokesman saying every new oil and gas project off Ningaloo heightened the risk of an environmental disaster.
An Apache spokesman said it was planning to do work only in areas it was permitted to explore.
"Apache is committed to conducting all its operations and activities with minimal impact on the environment and other marine stakeholders and in compliance with all Federal and State laws," he said.
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