BPH Energy, which was told on 4 April 2022 that their PEP-11 license to explore for gas off the NSW coast between Manly and Newcastle was terminated, has applied to the Federal Court for a judicial review.
The company, which held an 85 per cent stake in the PEP-11 gas exploration project, is appealing to the Federal Court to overturn the decision to reject an extension of its licence.
PEP-11 covered 4,575 square kilometres of offshore marine territory from Manly to Newcastle, which a consortium of gas and oil companies hoped to exploit. The new ban also prohibits any further exploration for fossil fuels in that specific region, where vast tracts containing millions of cubic feet of natural gas have been detected in underground wells.
The principal permit holders were Asset Energy Pty Ltd (a subsidiary of Advent Energy, an unlisted oil and gas company based in Perth, which is, in turn, owned by BPH Energy), which held an 85 per cent stake, and Bounty Oil & Gas NL, which held the remaining 15 per cent.
BPH Energy questioned the process used by the Joint Authority to arrive at their decision and that is what they are asking the Federal Court to review.
On 7 June, Manly MP James Griffin declared his opposition to the appeal.
“The NSW Government stands resolute in our opposition to the PEP-11 permit,” he continued, “and I strongly encourage Prime Minister Albanese to follow through with his commitment and again reject this permit for good. It is important that both NSW and Federal Governments stand together telling BPH Energy there is no place for oil and gas drilling off the coast of Sydney, the Northern Beaches, the Central Coast and Newcastle.”
BPH Energy’s appeal coincides with predictions of an energy crisis, with fears that gas prices are set to more than double from July 2022. The new Labor Government’s Resources Minister, Madeleine King, has been holding urgent discussions with gas companies and AEMO (the Australian Energy Market Operator) to increase supply into the consumer market to counter the price rise.
On 5 June, after new National Party leader David Littleproud accused the incoming Labor administration of long ‘demonising’ the gas industry on ABC TV’s Insiders program, new Energy Minister Chris Bowen retaliated on Sky News, saying that was “about as effective as advice from the captain of the Titanic on navigation skills.”
At the time of Scott Morrison’s announcement to revoke the gas exploration license, Manly resident Layne Beachley, seven-times world champion surfer and an Order of Australia recipient, warned that BPH Energy’s drilling plans would be disastrous for both the local economy and the ecology.
“I would hate to see oil or gas rigs on the most beautiful horizon on the Earth,” she said. “It would destroy tourism, it would destroy the marine ecosystems, it’s a whale migration pathway. It doesn’t belong here and I would hate to see it on my watch.”
The 100km stretch of coastline between Manly and Newcastle, where drilling rigs would have been installed, is in a major cetacean migration route between Antarctic waters and whale breeding grounds in the mid-Pacific Ocean.
From May to November every year, thousands of whales use this corridor during their northward and southward return migrations along Australia’s east coast. There was a high risk of leakages contaminating the region and the noise associated with drilling operations disrupting the whales’ sonar.