Gas companies making plans to drill offshore from Newcastle.

Opponents fear the PEP 11 gas exploration permit off the coasts of Sydney and Newcastle will be renewed today by Federal Resources Minister Keith Pitt.

The joint venture companies currently holding the exploration permit continue to move forward with their plans to drill off the coast of Lake Macquarie, despite the PEP11 permit lapsing tomorrow.

This is just a week after Anthony Albanese announced that Federal Labor opposes the renewal of PEP11. The NSW State Government and every Federal MP with an electorate adjacent to PEP11 have also formally opposed the development of offshore oil and gas rigs off their coast.

No fossil fuel development in Australia has been so broadly opposed by all sides of politics,” said Surfrider Foundation Chair, Sean Doherty.

Petroleum Exploration Permit 11 extends between Newcastle in the north and Manly in the south and covers 4,500 square kilometres. The permit is currently held by a joint venture between Advent Energy (85%) and Bounty Oil and Gas (15%), who are developing the Baleen prospect off the coast of Lake Macquarie.

They currently have an application before NOPTA to change the title of their activities to allow drilling, and this week announced to the market the appointment of a Contracts Manager for their drilling activities.

The PEP11 permit itself however lapses today, February 12. It is currently before the joint authority of Federal Resources Minister Keith Pitt and NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro. If extended, the permit will lock in gas development off the coast of Sydney for years.

There is nobody on this coast who wants PEP 11 to go ahead, not a soul,” says Sean Doherty. “The east coast is currently free from offshore gas, and to open up an oil and gas field off the coast of Sydney is one of the craziest ideas you could ever dream up. That coast is home to millions of people. It’s a huge economic driver for tourism and is in a remarkably pristine ecological state. Meanwhile the rest of Australia produces three times the gas we use domestically. Why put gas rigs off the coast of Sydney and Newcastle when we don’t even need them?”

Here we are with the permit about to lapse, and yet we have the gas companies marching ahead and making overtures to the market as if it’s a done deal,” says Doherty. “What do they know that we don’t? The oil and gas lobby in Australia have long had too much influence in the approvals process. This time we’re asking that the community be listened to.”

A number of coastal community groups have been working on the PEP11 campaign, including the Surfrider Foundation, Save Our Coast, and Surfers For Climate.

We do not want gas drilling in our backyard,” says Belinda Baggs of Surfers For Climate. “We no longer want polluting fossil fuels destroying our climate and industries threatening our environment. Locals have drawn a line in the sand and we hope that the state and federal decision makers are listening.”