Sydney, 12 September (Argus) — The Australian government expects to implement all the recommendations of the inquiry into the Montara oil spill by the end of next year. The 2009 Montara incident affected a 90,000km² area of the Timor Sea that took 10 weeks to bring under control.
The government has completed 81 of the 92 recommendations made by the Montara commission of inquiry, Canberra said. The spill led to a shake-up of offshore safety laws and procedures, including the creation of the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (Nopsema), which replaced state-based regulators.
The 11 remaining recommendations will be implemented by the end of 2013, within the government's legislative programme, the report said. Australia's Labor-led government faces a federal election by August 2013.
“The reforms provide greater clarity and veracity in the regulation of offshore petroleum industry activities in Commonwealth waters,” Australian resources and energy minister Martin Ferguson said.
The government has also agreed to a further package of reforms to the offshore legislative regime that will strengthen and clarify the regulatory framework for offshore petroleum activities. Regulations will be further improved by introducing legislation incorporating a 'polluter pays' principle to ensure that all the costs of responding to a hydrocarbon spill will be met in full by the polluter, Ferguson said.
The government will look to improve compliance and enforcement activities under the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006 by increasing criminal penalties consistent with other major hazard industries, introducing a civil penalty regime and better equipping Nopsema with a broader range of compliance and enforcement tools, including further strengthening and clarifying its inspectorate powers. Some of the changes include the revision of a national plan to combat pollution of the sea and other noxious and hazardous substances.
The Montara commission's original report made 105 recommendations. The government accepted 92 recommendations and took note of a further 10, but did not accept three of the recommendations because they were technically inappropriate.
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