25/05/2009 - 09:09

Moore disappointed over Apache ruling

25/05/2009 - 09:09

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Mines and Petroleum Minister Norman Moore says he is "disappointed" the Federal Court has ruled in Apache Energy's favour over a claim relating to an inquiry into the Varanus Island gas explosion.

Moore disappointed over Apache ruling

Mines and Petroleum Minister Norman Moore says he is "disappointed" the Federal Court has ruled in Apache Energy's favour over a claim relating to an inquiry into the Varanus Island gas explosion.

Apache sought to block the Department of Mines and Petroleum from giving information it had obtained from an investigation into the explosion to a federal-state inquiry.

In a judgement delivered on Friday afternoon, Justice Neil McKerracher found that under State Act 1969, the department was not legally entitled to provide information to the inquiry, which was launched earlier this year.

In October last year, Mr Moore released results from an initial investigation which was critical of Apache over ineffective protection and inadequate inspections of its pipelines, one of which was found to be the cause of the June 3 blast.

The department's final report is due for release next month.

Earlier this month, Mr Moore sought to bypass Apache's legal manoeuvre by appointing inquiry heads, Kym Bills and David Agostini, as state inspectors that will co-ordinate the final stage of the department's investigation.

However, the federal court ruling now prevents Messrs Bills and Agostini from using information from the investigation for the inquiry, which is currently being finalised.

"By blocking access to vital information related to the incident, Apache Energy has limited the scop of the inquiry's final report to make recommendations on how to improve the system," Mr Moore said today.

"We will not get as complete a picture of what occurred and this may reduce the effectiveness of any measures authorities may put in place to reduce the chances of such an incident reoccurring."

He added the government will seek further advice on the implications of the ruling.

Messrs Bills and Agostini will continue to help finalise the department's investigations.

 

 

 

The announcement is below:

 

 

Apache Energy has used Federal Court action to block disclosure and use of certain State information by the joint State-Federal inquiry into last year's Varanus Island gas pipeline explosion.

Mines and Petroleum Minister Norman Moore said today he was disappointed the Federal Court had upheld an application to prevent the expert panel, Kym Bills and David Agostini, from using this information held by the State.

"By blocking access to vital information related to the incident, Apache Energy has limited the scope of the inquiry's final report to make recommendations on how to improve the system," Mr Moore said.

"We will not get as complete a picture of what occurred and this may reduce the effectiveness of any measures authorities may put in place to reduce the chances of such an incident reoccurring."

In its decision, the court acknowledged that it was highly desirable to achieve safety, security and reliability in relation to gas and petroleum pipelines and that the State's action in releasing information was a convenient and sensible way to brief the panel.

The Minister said he would seek further advice on the implications of the ruling.

"Meanwhile, Mr Bills and Mr Agostini will continue to help finalise the initial State investigation into the explosion, following their appointment earlier this month as inspectors under the Petroleum Pipelines Act earlier ," he said

The initial investigation was begun by the National Offshore Petroleum Safety Authority (NOPSA) and the former Department of Industry and Resources after the June 3, 2008 explosion. The Minister released a report from that investigation in October.

"As inspectors, Mr Bills and Mr Agostini will have access to information obtained by the department that will help identify the most likely causes of the explosion, any potential breaches of regulations and other relevant facts related to the incident," Mr Moore said.

"They will also have access to vital evidence, such as results from destructive and non-destructive tests on the pipeline, not available in the initial stages of the investigation."

The Varanus Island Final Investigation Report is expected to be finished in June.

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