Consultation (with titleholders) for offshore petroleum activities

Offshore oil and gas companies are required to consult with relevant persons while they are preparing environment plans for the offshore petroleum activities they wish to undertake. To assist stakeholders, NOPSEMA has compiled some key information to clarify the regulatory requirements for consultation as well as providing useful pointers for engaging with oil and gas companies.

Should I be consulted?

If you believe that an offshore oil and gas activity may affect your functions, interests or activities then you are a relevant person and by law you must be consulted.

The terms ‘functions, interests or activities’ are broad and may extend to a group or organisation having a common concern. If you or your organisation consider that you are a relevant person then you should be able to demonstrate that the specific activity to be undertaken by an oil and gas company may have a direct effect on your functions, interests or activities. The intent of the law is to allow those who may be affected by an activity to have an opportunity to understand how the activity will be undertaken and to contribute to identification and management of the potential impacts and risks of the activity. 

 

 How can I participate in consultation processes?

It is the responsibility of the oil and gas company to let all relevant persons who may be affected know about the proposed activity and to provide information on how they will be consulted.

If you are contacted by an oil and gas company for consultation, you may advise them how and when you would like to be consulted. If you believe you are a relevant person for a proposed activity and you have not been consulted by a company, you should make yourself known to the company as soon as possible. By subscribing to NOPSEMA’s website you can stay up-to-date with proposed activities. Contact details for company representatives for each environment plan submission are also available on the NOPSEMA website.

 

 What information should I receive?

It is the oil and gas company’s responsibility to provide you with enough information and time to make an informed decision.

The information a company provides must explain how the activity will be undertaken, how it could affect you and how the company will seek to reduce those effects. Information provided to you must be in a form that you can easily use and understand. The company must provide you all information that may be relevant to the possible effects of the activity on your functions, interests or activities. You can help in the process by being specific about what your concerns are, providing as much supporting evidence about objections or claims as you can and by communicating openly and collaboratively. The company must give you a reasonable period of time to consider any information that has been provided and for you to provide responses should you wish to do so. If you are not satisfied with what you have been provided you should request further information. Again, being specific about the information you require or the objections or claims you have can help the company to get the right information to you. You may also suggest possible ways to reduce any effects the activity could have on you.  If you have extensive dealings with oil and gas companies consider developing guidance for engagement with them. For example, you could outline the type of information you want to receive and the format you wish to receive it in.

 

What happens to my comments?

Your feedback must be used by the company to inform the assessment of impacts and risks and ensure all relevant information is considered when drafting an environment plan.

Once the consultation process is undertaken, the company may then submit the environment plan to NOPSEMA. The environment plan must include copies of consultation correspondence and the outcomes of consultation including appropriate justifications for selecting or rejecting additional control measures in response to concerns you have raised. This is why it is important that you provide your comments to the company in writing.
NOPSEMA assess your information in the context of the whole environment plan, including consultation undertaken with other stakeholders. Based on this information NOPSEMA makes a determination on whether the consultation undertaken has been appropriate and whether the company has demonstrated that all of the impacts and risks of its activity are acceptable and as low as reasonably practicable.

 

What if I am not satisfied with the consultation process?

If you disagree with how your claim or objection has been handled during the consultation process, let the oil and gas company know in writing.

You may copy this correspondence to NOPSEMA as well if you feel that the company is not responding appropriately. Even if an environment plan has already been submitted for assessment you can continue to contact the company throughout the assessment process. If you have serious concerns about how a company has consulted you, you can contact NOPSEMA directly so we can investigate the issue.

 

What if I am not satisfied with the outcome of consultation?

It is important to remember that consultation is intended to ensure that all parties have had the opportunity to consider information and explain their position.

Often, areas in which oil and gas companies operate will be of interest to many different people with different views on how these areas should be managed. There are circumstances when not all parties will agree with the outcomes of consultation. A company’s environment plan must detail the consultation outcomes including any outstanding issues that may exist. NOPSEMA makes an assessment of this information as well as any other information provided to determine whether impacts and risks to the environment and to stakeholders are acceptable and have been reduced to as low as reasonably practicable.

NOPSEMA will make a decision as to whether to accept or refuse to accept an environment plan, based on the merits of the plan and whether all regulatory requirements have been met. NOPSEMA cannot refuse to accept an environment plan on the basis of a difference of opinion between a company and its stakeholders. If NOPSEMA has reviewed the information available and concludes that the information gained through the consultation was provided within the environment plan; that the outcomes of the consultation were addressed within the risk assessment and any measures that the company adopted or did not adopt in response to the consultation were reasonable, then NOPSEMA is likely to determine that consultation was conducted appropriately

 

What if I disagree with NOPSEMA’s decision?

If you are unhappy with NOPSEMA’s decision then you should contact NOPSEMA directly at feedback@nopsema.gov.au

There are several mechanisms available including requesting a statement of reasons for NOPSEMA’s decision or lodging a formal complaint with us.

NOPSEMA treats feedback on the discharge of its regulatory functions seriously. All feedback is acknowledged, reviewed and addressed in accordance with our published policies. NOPSEMA addresses all complaints with respect and confidentiality.

 

Staying involved

Oil and gas companies must have an implementation strategy in place which includes ongoing engagement with relevant persons while they are undertaking an activity.

If you require additional information at specific points throughout an activity, you should ensure the company is aware of this as a part of the consultation process. You should let the company know what information you are interested in receiving during the activity, when and how you would like to receive the information and explain why it will assist you in exercising your functions, interests or activities.

Interested parties are encouraged to keep up-to-date by subscribing to receive updates on the status of assessments and petroleum activities on NOPSEMA’s website.