Controversial fossil fuel company Woodside has once again been targeted by protests in response to the use of ‘seismic blasting’ in marine habitat off the coast of Western Australia.
Approximately 100 people gathered outside Woodside’s Perth HQ on Thursday in opposition to the highly contentious Scarborough gas project off the Pilbara coast, where Woodside has commenced underwater testing using high-powered compressed air cannons, pointed at the ocean floor, to identify pockets of oil and gas. The blasts from these cannons can occur every 10-15 seconds, sometimes for months at a time and are so powerful that they penetrate deep through the seabed.
The activity, known as ‘seismic blasting’ can kill or injure marine animals in the vicinity, with even microscopic zooplankton – the basis of the ocean food chain – at risk of death. The noise can damage the hearing of whales and deter them from visiting areas where seismic blasting is taking place, which can coincide with breeding and feeding grounds.
The protest was organised by the Conservation Council of WA (CCWA), Western Australia’s peak body for the environment and climate, along with Drummers for Climate Action.
Scarborough and Woodside continue to attract controversy
Woodside pressed ahead with seismic blasting after securing environmental approvals from the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) last week. The approvals were delayed by two months after a Federal Court challenge from Murujuga Traditional Owner, Raelene Cooper, who said that cultural heritage was at risk if seismic blasting was allowed to proceed. Ms Cooper argued that Woodside had failed to properly consult her as a Traditional Owner. Raelene Cooper spoke at the protest on Thursday, reiterating her concerns to climate supporters.
Woodside has been embroiled in successive court battles against the Scarborough project, with two legal challenges brought in the WA Supreme Court by CCWA and a further challenge in the Federal Court led by the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF).
Other groups – including Greenpeace, the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS), 350 Australia and Market Forces – have coordinated to highlight the scale of environmental and climate damage associated with the project through a number of high-profile campaigns.
‘All risk and no reward’
Speaking at the protest, CCWA Fossil Fuels Program Manager Anna Chapman, said that Scarborough represented an unacceptable risk to both endangered species and the future of the climate.
“Seismic blasting in endangered whale habitat at the Scarborough Gas field is a disastrous first step in Woodside's plans for the Burrup Hub mega gas project. The Burrup Hub plans will have ongoing devasting consequences for our marine life. Woodside has proposals to extend gas processing to 2070, and to open the dirty Browse gas basin turning the pristine waters of Scott Reef into an industrial zone.
“Woodside’s only interest is securing as much profit as possible at the expense of the environment. The majority of gas is exported, and not for the benefit of ordinary West Australians. Simultaneously, Woodside uses its enormous lobbying resources to promote gas over clean, green renewable energy solutions.
“The damage that Woodside is doing, today, to vital marine habitat is unconscionable. It must not be allowed to continue unchallenged if we are to protect some of our most vulnerable species for future generations.”
MEDIA INFORMATION: The Conservation Council of WA (CCWA) is the state’s foremost nonprofit, non-government conservation organisation representing nearly 100 environmental organisations across Western Australia. For more information, visit: ccwa.org.au.
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