The Montara oil spill in the Timor Sea that lasted for three months in late 2009 was large but affected no countries directly and is certainly a long way from the Gulf of Mexico and BP. However there are enough similarities for considerable media attention to be focused on the investigative report into the incident that was handed to the Australian Government on 17 June 2010.
The Australian Resources Minister, Martin Ferguson, acknowledged the receipt of the commission of inquiry’s final report but will not be releasing it yet.
Greens Senator Rachel Seiwert has said:
“The release of all information available to date is essential for the development of new regulatory and environmental procedures…. We need to be better prepared to respond to future disasters in our precious marine environment.”
Seiwert has at least acknowledged the global context of the report:
“Halliburton is reported to have carried out cementing work on both the Montara well and the US Deepwater Horizon well in the Gulf of Mexico. The failure of this cementing has been linked in the media to both spills.”
Speculation is that the report will recommend a “single national regulator for off-shore drilling” according to the Australian Financial Review (AFR) on 19 June 2010 (p5. not available online). This is another major issue where the Western Australian government will be in conflict with the federal government not be happy but then, Resources Minister Ferguson has spoken against this option in the past.
The AFR quotes the COO of Roc Oil, Alan Linn:
“It was always our feeling that [Montara] would be a game-changer for the Australian industry….The Deepwater Horizon on top of that will fundamentally change the way the industry is regulated. It has to.”
In a similar situation to President Obama, government are deciding that the industry must be better regulated but not to the extent that investment is less attractive. The US is dealing with a British company, Australia is dealing with a Thai company, both have drilling options elsewhere. The political challenges should not be underestimated but all this does is call on leadership but a new leadership that may be willing to risk a hit on the corporations’ share price or a reduction in tax revenue.