Woodside wants less Exmouth scrutiny

Woodside Petroleum has asked Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt to overrule his department and order a lower level of scrutiny for a proposed seismic survey north of Exmouth.

In support of its call, Woodside said it had agreed to postpone the survey until after an annual regional fishing competition and, to address concerns about the impact on migrating blue whales, would have more stringent marine fauna observation.

Woodside's executive vice-president global exploration, Phil Loader, made the call in submissions to Canberra following a Department of the Environment ruling on February 3 that the Babylon 3-D marine seismic survey be a controlled action.

Mr Loader wants Mr Hunt to overrule his department and downgrade the survey application be non-controlled, which attracts a lower level of scrutiny.

In his submission Mr Loader argued that since Woodside made its initial application for approval, there had been a "substantial change in circumstances not foreseen and substantial new information not available".

Principal among those was Woodside's ability to narrow down the time frame for the survey period, initially proposed for between March 1 and May 31, to start after March 21. This would allow the "regionally significant recreational fishing tournament GAMEX (which includes) an intensive fishing effort" to finish.

Woodside also said there would be two dedicated marine fauna observers on the survey ship "observing explicitly for blue whales or unidentified whales during daylight hours".

The West Australian

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