NOPSEMA accepts environmental plan for seismic testing off Newcastle coast

A satellite image of PEP11, off the coast of Newcastle, where seismic testing is proposed as part of gas exploration.
A satellite image of PEP11, off the coast of Newcastle, where seismic testing is proposed as part of gas exploration.

The federal regulator has accepted an environment plan from the firm that wants to conduct seismic testing off the coast of Newcastle and the Central Coast.

The National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority’s decision paved the way for Asset Energy, a subsidiary of Advent Energy, to search for gas deposits about 30km off the NSW east coast, the company indicated in a statement on Wednesday night.

The plan to shoot acoustic pulses into the ocean floor has been criticised in recent months by the NSW Greens and the Professional Fishermen’s Association, who fear the project could have negative impacts on wildlife in the area.

But the company maintains its practices are environmentally safe.

In its statement following the decision, the company said it would “now commence mobilisation of equipment and preparations” to conduct the seismic testing, but no start date has been confirmed.

“This is another fantastic step for Advent Energy and the exploration of the offshore Sydney Basin,” MEC Chairman said Goh Hock, chairman of parent company MEC Resources.

“These are excellent developments to commence 2018 on a very positive note and we look forward to further progress during the year.”

NSW Greens marine and fisheries spokesperson Justin Field said his party condemned the approval.

“NOPSEMA says it is ‘reasonably satisfied’ with the environmental risk contained in Asset Energy’s environmental plan for seismic testing but the community cannot have confidence the plan goes far enough or will be effective,” Mr Field said.

“The precious coastal waters off Newcastle and Sydney are no place for an oil and gas field, and even the exploration process is fraught with danger for migrating whales, local fisheries and the environment.

“The NSW Government should step in and revoke this licence. It’s not worth risking the health of the marine environment, our valuable fisheries resources and good local jobs for oil and gas exploration where the community will never accept a future gas field.”

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