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Shell accused of using old environment ‘study’ in its rush for Wild Coast gas

All marine life will be threatened by sonic booms fired by air guns from December as Shell barges on with its oil and gas exploration.
All marine life will be threatened by sonic booms fired by air guns from December as Shell barges on with its oil and gas exploration.
Image: Lesley Rochat

Oil giant Shell has been accused of dusting off a 2014 environmental impact process and rushing into its seismic survey on the Wild Coast on December 1.

Shell says it complied fully with public consultation and environmental impact laws and before commencing the Wild Coast seismic survey.

Asked how the seismic blasting fitted in with shell’s nature-based approach, the company adopted a “funnel” metaphor — and spoke of their hope of expanding ever further.

Their statement read: “In order for us to meet energy demand, we must ensure we have a strong project funnel and resilient future development opportunities.”

One objector who signed up as an interested and affected party said the consultation process happened almost six years ago when Silver Wave Pty Ltd owned exploration right 12/3/252.

“We thought it was on the shelf, but suddenly on June 25 this year I got an email from SLR notifying me of an audit report of an environment management programme summary. It is all very hazy and sudden.”

Shell’s bland response came hours after world leaders launched the UN’s Cop27 climate summit in Glasgow this week with dire warnings about climate chaos caused by fossil fuel emissions already harming humanity.

Fiery warning speeches were delivered by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Prince of Wales Charles George, and nature moviemaker activist Sir Richard Attenborough.

But the stage belonged to Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley who attacked the polluting north for not trying hard enough, and placing millions of people in southern islands at risk of being engulfed by rising oceans.

Pacific youth were proclaiming: “We are not drowning. We are fighting!”

She said a 2°C warming of the climate would be a “death sentence”, but UN secretary-General António Guterres said even with present pledges by nations to bring down emissions, the climate was headed for a “calamitous” 2.7°C of heating.

The last six years were the hottest on record. 

On Thursday, Shell’s consultant, Eloise Costandius of SLR Consulting in Johannesburg, said SLR was not involved in the environmental impact assessment (EIA) process, but was appointed to “distribute the commencement of operation notice” published in the Dispatch on Tuesday.

Shell said they had complied with the National Environmental Management Act’s environmental impact regulations, listing appointing an ” independent environmental practitioner” to compile a list of interested and affected parties and issuing a “background information document”.

There were two rounds of commenting, everyone on the database was promised notifications and updates on outcomes, and parties could comment on the draft environmental management programme (EMPr).

There was “a series of face-to-face” group meetings “in an open-house format”, focused group meetings, and then, Shell said, “the environmental authorisation has been obtained to undertake this survey.”

It did not state when this happened.

Shell said it would be using three “airgun arrays” for “12 to 18 hours a day”.

Asked if research was done on the impact of the airgun sounds on marine life, such as Brydes and beaked whales, and the entire marine ecosystem, Shell responded: “Specialist studies have been undertaken by independent environmental specialists, which have informed the assessment of impacts in the area and mitigation measures to be adopted for the project.”

The source said the marine mammal report produced in 2014-15 was outdated.

Shell said it was a deeply committed partner of SA  government in its “just energy transition”.

Dr Jean Harris, executive director of WildOceans, said: “It is outrageous that these surveys will begin before the last of the humpback whales have completed their migration through that area.

“As we have seen at the COP26, steadily countries are terminating their support for unabated fossil fuel extraction.

“There is no place for the exploration of oil during a climate emergency.”

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