Legal threat over oil spill
A DARWIN lawyer has said the Australian Government faced the prospect of a class action involving Indonesian villagers who claim to have been affected by the Montara disaster, which spewed oil into the Timor Sea for 74 days six years ago.
Greg Phelps, president of the Australian Lawyers Alliance, said people in eastern Indonesia were continuing to suffer from the spill which saw an estimated 90,000 sq km of sea affected when 110,000 barrels of oil and gas condensate discharged from the Montara well, 700km west of Darwin.
It was the biggest offshore oil spill in Australian history and began on August 21, 2009, after an explosion on the Montara rig, operated by Thaiowned PTTEP Australasia.
Speaking in Darwin recently, West Timor Care founder and president Ferdi Tanoni said the spill had not only caused widespread economic losses among subsistence industries in the province of East Nusa Tenggara, it had led to health problems and, in some cases, death.
Mr Tanoni wants an independent study on the impact of the spill in East Nusa Tenggara. He said the incomes of seaweed farmers and fishermen had dropped by up to 90 per cent in some cases after the spill.
It’s estimated as many 100,000 people had been affected by the spill in a number of islands in East Nusa Tengarra.
Because the spill occurred in August, Mr Tanoni said Australia was spared serious environmental harm as the prevailing south-easterly winds at that time of year pushed the oil towards Indonesia.
Those pushing for an independent scientific inquiry claim the scope of the 2011 Montara Commission didn’t look at possible environmental damage on the Indonesian side of the shared maritime boundary.
PTTEP Australasia was fined $510,000 over the spill in Darwin Magistrates Court in August, 2012. Mr Phelps said after six years the legal team he heads was “frustrated” they’d been unable to get co-operation on an inquiry from the Australian Government or PTTEP Australasia.