Woodside planned to offset the damage caused by dumping a 2,529-tonne steel and plastic mooring next to the Ningaloo World Heritage Area by picking up plastic rubbish on beaches, documents released under Freedom of Information reveal.

The documents show the federal environment department had concerns the ‘highly acutely toxic’ plastics in the mooring had the potential to harm human health and marine species and described Woodside’s ‘beach clean-up’ plan as ‘questionable’.

The offshore petroleum regulator – NOPSEMA – granted permission for the proposal to dump the mooring at sea. But it was stopped by the federal environment department following opposition from conservationists and the Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Advisory Committee.

The department found Woodside’s proposal for an ‘artificial reef’ was inconsistent with international protocols that prevent the dumping of waste in the ocean.

Woodside now proposes to tow the mooring to shore—something the company previously said was impossible.

Woodside is expected to acquire BHP’s petroleum assets if that deal is approved at a meeting on 19 May. These assets include 10 platforms and 180 wells off the Gippsland coast which must be cleaned up by 2027.

“We need stronger laws and regulations to govern the decommissioning of these toxic facilities because we know the industry will try to cut costs at the expense of the environment and the community every time,” said ACF campaigner Nathaniel Pelle.

“The prospect of Woodside taking on responsibility for BHP’s aging oil and gas facilities around Australia, including in Bass Strait, should have coastal communities on high alert.

“Woodside has made the mess—and billions of dollars—now it needs to be made to clean up after itself. That goes for any liabilities it might inherit from BHP.

“Decommissioning these facilities is an expensive exercise and the onus must be on companies like Woodside, which have made millions of dollars extracting resources and damaging the environment in the process.”

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