National regulator a step closer to reality

FEDERAL Resources and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson's push for a single national offshore petroleum regulator has passed the House of Representatives and will now go to the Senate.
National regulator a step closer to reality
National regulator a step closer to reality
National regulator a step closer to reality
National regulator a step closer to reality
National regulator a step closer to reality

The package of five bills was passed without the Opposition forcing a vote.

Opposition energy and resources spokesperson Ian MacFarlane moved to support some of Ferguson's comments despite earlier criticism of the measure being pushed forward and the lack of a full agreement with Western Australia.

However, Ferguson did sponsor an amendment giving the resource rich state a greater role in administrating royalties from the North West Shelf area and promised to keep talking with the state government.

He added in Parliament that the WA Minister for Mines and Petroleum would also be aware of titles in federal waters offshore WA as he or she would participate in their granting.

"This point illustrates the extent to which I have gone to accommodate Western Australian concerns, and not just in relation to this issue, without compromising the essential aim of improving our national offshore regulatory regime."

Ferguson also confirmed that the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) and National Offshore Petroleum Titles Administrator (NOPTA) would be based in Perth, reinforcing the city's importance in the global oil and gas industry.

"It is also the government's ambition that because these two regulators will be well resourced and so be able to attract quality staff in what is a high-paying industry, they will be recognised as among the best regulators for this industry in the world."

The replacement of the seven state and territory authorities with NOPSEMA will be the completion of a process kick-started by the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association.

In 2007 APPEA recommended in its Platform report a prosperity review of the onshore and offshore regulatory framework to assist in the implementation of a more efficient and nationally consistent petroleum regulatory regime.

The Council of Australian Governments identified in 2008 that overlapping and inconsistent regulation were threatening to impede economic activity in the upstream petroleum sector and agreed that the Productivity Commission should undertake a review.

This confirmed the burdens and identified potential national income gains of billions of dollars per year from implementing its recommended reforms.

However, the biggest boost to the process was the 2009 Montara oil spill, which Ferguson said highlighted problems arising from "regulatory gaps between regulation of safety separate from regulation of integrity, environment and day-to-day operations".

This in turn led to the federal government pushing ahead with implementing a single national offshore regulator.

"These reforms streamline Australia's regulatory system, bolstering the nation's position as a world leader in offshore oil and gas regulation," he added.

NOPSEMA will regulate all safety issues from exploration to well decommissioning while both it and NOPTA will have their costs recovered from industry.