Momentum behind push for new Montara study
East Timor leaders and the Australian Greens have joined calls for the federal government to examine the full extent of the Montara oil spill, after Indonesia’s government backed a new bid for further study into the damage caused.
Indonesia’s Transport Minister EE Mangindaan is supporting the West Timor Care Foundation to lobby the federal government and the company responsible for the 2009 spill to look for damage beyond Australian waters.
The Thai-owned company concerned, PTTEP Australasia, says it has always been willing to have dialogue with the Indonesian government.
However the federal government is yet to come to the table.
A statement from Environment Minister Greg Hunt said he supported the government response to the disaster.
“The government is confident that the inquiry into the Montara oil spill was comprehensive and believes that the measures that were taken in response to the report into the spill provide the appropriate safeguards to minimise the risks in Australia’s oil and gas industry, which has a very strong safety record,” he said.
At the time of the spill, Mr Hunt, then in opposition, called for more expertise to focus on what he said was “a marine disaster of epic proportions”.
Greens senator Rachel Siewert earlier this year visited West Timor, where fishermen blame the spill for a crippling decline in their catch.
“It is incumbent upon the government to take leadership with this investigation,” Senator Siewert told AAP.
“Any damage to Indonesian communities resulted from failures in our regulatory practices, along with failures on the company’s part.
“The impacts of both oil and dispersant are still not properly understood, and we owe it to the communities affected to examine this issue.”
The East Timor leaders joining the bid for research are from Oecusse, an enclave geographically in West Timor.
There too, the fish catch is down and environmental events like a whale beaching are being blamed on Montara, in lieu of any studies.
Local leaders have given power of attorney to West Timor Care to demand accountability for the spill.
Studies in Australian waters found no long-term damage from the spill, with research finding 98 per cent of Montara oil stayed in Australian waters.