Sun, 24 Sep 2023

Woodside and other polluters littering our oceans

Independent Australia
28 May 2023, 09:52 GMT+10

In addition to harming the climate, fossil fuel corporations such as Woodside are leaving abandoned machinery in our oceans, reports Greenpeace Australia Pacific CEO David Ritter.

EVERY Western Australian is proud of our state's beauty, from the magnificent south coast to the wonder of the Kimberley. And with that pride is the awareness that you should never ever litter our fantastic state.

It is something that every Australian child learns at home and at school: put your rubbish in the bin. At my primary school, if you were caught littering, you got "scab duty", a lunchtime spent picking up rubbish. And fair enough too, because everyone knew that littering was just plain wrong.

But it is a lesson that CEO Meg O'Neill and the Woodside executive leadership team don't seem to have learned. Woodside is a corporate litterbug that has left enormous pieces of industrial trash to fall apart in Western Australia's beautiful ocean, just a short distance from the incredible fragile beauty of Ningaloo Marine Park.

I know this because I've just come back from taking a look at two massive pieces of litter that Woodside has left in our magnificent WA oceans.

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Like virtually all Western Australians, I grew up with a deep love of our coastline and it is profoundly upsetting to see this majority U.S.-owned oil and gas corporation treat our oceans like a garbage dump.

The first piece of trash is the Griffin riser turret mooring: a giant bit of garbage left over from an oil field. It's the size of an apartment block, about 100 metres high, and it unexpectedly sank into the ocean where it has been left to decay. A submerged oceanic junk heap sponsored by Woodside. It has been sitting on the ocean floor for more than a decade, corroding away, despite the oil and gas regulator, the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) ordering its removal.

The second heap of Woodside's dreck is the Nganhurra riser turret mooring which the company has left even closer to Ningaloo, less than 20km away. The Nganhurra riser turret mooring is reportedly full of toxic fire retardant. It's also been left in an area with plenty of oil tanker traffic, presenting a serious risk of vessel strike leading to an oil spill. The image of an oil spill suffocating Ningaloo and Exmouth Gulf is frighteningly easy to imagine.

NOPSEMA has told Woodside, in polite regulator language, to do something about their crap in the most environmentally responsible way possible. What that means is safely and securely removing their waste to be disposed of onshore. But more than two years since NOPSEMA issued Woodside with this notice, the company has done nothing.

Witnessing this rubbish left to fall apart is deeply confronting for anyone who loves our oceans. And it is not like Woodside does not have the money to clean up their hideous mess.

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So often, mass polluters like Woodside are able to get away with their environmental crimes because they are out of sight: over the horizon or under the ocean. I was only able to see Woodside's industrial refuse polluting our coast because Greenpeace's Rainbow Warrior ship went to the area to document what was happening. The footage of the ruined metal waste under the ocean, shot with an underwater drone, is particularly confronting.

To leave rubbish in our precious, beautiful oceans is massive corporate arrogance on the part of Woodside. This is a company that clearly does not care about the health of our oceans; an attitude that is also there in Woodside's recklessness towards the global climate.

It is more than a year since UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' said that "investing in new fossil fuels infrastructure is moral and economic madness", a statement that reflects the best advice of the United Nations, the International Energy Agency, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and any number of other scientific research organisations.

But Woodside apparently thinks it knows better. Against the advice of climate experts across the world, the company seeks to open two massive new gas basins at Scarborough and Browse off WA's northwest coast. Woodside also wants to extend the life of its Burrup Hub gas processing infrastructure to 2070, making a mockery of West Australian and national commitments to net zero emissions by 2050. If the project is completed, the Burrup Hub would spew more than six billion tonnes of additional climate pollution into our atmosphere.

Woodside has shown that it is a company that cannot be trusted with our oceans or our climate. The magnificent state of Western Australia and our wonderful oceans deserve so much better than this.

David Ritter is the chief executive officer of Greenpeace Australia Pacific. You can follow David on Twitter @David_Ritter.

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