The Australian Conservation Foundation has welcomed the withdrawal of an application for oil and gas giant Woodside to dump an 83-metre-long steel and plastic mooring next to the Ningaloo World Heritage Area.

Woodside’s proposal, which was put forward in partnership with recreational fishing group Recfishwest, was quietly withdrawn in mid-September and is no longer being considered by the federal Environment Department.

In July ACF raised the alarm that Woodside planned to sink the riser turret mooring that secured the decommissioned Nganhurra floating oil rig just off Ningaloo Reef.

Woodside argued it was unable to tow the mooring to land for disposal due to the poor condition of the structure.

“ACF is pleased this structure, full of plastics and heavy metals, will no longer be dumped just outside the Ningaloo World Heritage Area, which is known and loved for its whale sharks, turtles, tropical fish and coral reefs,” said ACF nature campaigner Nathaniel Pelle.

“The massive riser contains polyurethane foam, plastic and manganese, a toxic, soluble heavy metal that would eventually have ended up in the sensitive marine environment.

“This was an outrageous proposal that may well have breached international law.

“If this proposal had gone ahead it would have set a dangerous precedent given there are hundreds of oil and gas wells due to be abandoned by companies in the next few years.

“The rules that require companies to remove their equipment need to be strengthened.”

Woodside recently took over ownership of some of BHP’s ageing oil and gas infrastructure in Bass Strait and is expected to decommission much more infrastructure in coming years.

ACF is concerned that as this application was withdrawn – not considered and rejected – no statement of reasons will be produced explaining why the application was to be refused.

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