27 Oct 2023

Media Release: Offshore regulatory approval chaos as wait times blow out to 562 days and counting

Australia’s oil and gas industry has called for the Commonwealth to urgently fix the broken offshore regulatory system after the logjam of energy supply and carbon capture projects awaiting approval was exposed.

Senate Estimates has heard how plans have been tangled up in the approvals process for 562 days on average for exploration and 400 days on average for development as a result of regulatory uncertainty  following a Federal Court ruling last year.

Average wait times were generally around 180 days, depending on the plan, before the problems.

The National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) confirmed there were 42 environmental plans linked to energy and carbon capture projects worth billions of dollars before it. Only 5 have been approved since the Court decision.

Officials admitted the “complexities around at the moment with the regulations and the court interpretation of that”.

Australian Energy Producers Chief Executive Samantha McCulloch said: “The Commonwealth’s review of offshore environmental regulations must be fast-tracked now.

“The regulator has revealed the uncertainty and ambiguity of the regulations that are risking the energy security of Australia and its international trade partners.

“Projects that will provide reliable and affordable energy to Australian households and businesses have been held up 562 days on average in a huge blowout. A number of plans have been in the approval process for more than two years.

“Even if projects are approved, uncertainty remains. An approval no longer means an approval and companies are watching approvals granted by the national regulator be overturned in court.

“Governments must ensure robust and timely approvals or risk shortages and upward pressure on energy prices. Regulations that provide clarity and certainty for industry while maintaining comprehensive and meaningful consultation with stakeholders are urgently needed.”

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