Jakarta to sue Australian oil subsidiary over Montara spill

[Indonesia] Indonesia will file a civil lawsuit next month over the 2009 Montara spill — one of Australia’s worst oil disasters — after failing to convince the Australian or Thai governments to help resolve an issue that has affected some of the country’s poorest communities.

An Indonesian foreign ministry spokesman confirmed yesterday the government would lodge a claim for damages against PTT Exploration and Production Company (PTTEP) Australasia, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Thai state-owned oil company PTTEP.

“A decision has been made that we will pursue this case in an Indonesian court,” spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir said.

“We are at the moment preparing for the legal case. They are planning to pursue this in April.”

Mr Nasir said Indonesian government officials had been engaged in “long negotiations” with the company ever since the spill.

“We have also raised that issue a number of times in our bilateral discussions with Australia as well as Thailand,” he added

A senior government official told The Australian the civil suit would be lodged in the Central Jakarta District Court on April 7.

“We are seeking trillions of rupiah in damages for the oil spill,” the official said on condition of anonymity, adding that details of the civil suit were still being finalised by the Indonesian Attorney-General’s Office.

Some 13,000 seaweed farmers have already launched a $200 million class action in Sydney’s Federal Court against PTTEP Australasia for damage to livelihoods and health since the West Atlas oil rig, operated by Perth-based operation PTTEP Australasia Montara 250km off Australia’s northwest coast, sprung a leak and exploded in August 2009.

For 10 weeks, up to 500,000 litres of oil a day gushed into the Timor Sea, polluting seaweed farms, beaches, coral, boats and fishing grounds

A report by the Australian Lawyers’ Association, After the Spill, cited communities describing a “white sickness” that later appeared on the seaweed and worsened with specific currents.

“Fishermen said that there are no longer any fish to catch in fishing grounds which they have fished for years. The death of mangroves removed a crucial bulwark to the ocean and there was subsequent flooding of villages,” the report said.

Indonesia’s Centre for Energy and Environmental Studies has estimated economic losses caused by the Montara spill to the fishing and seaweed industries in Indonesia’s East Nusa Tenggara province amounts to around $1.5 billion per year.

But PTTEP Australasia says its own studies found no oil from the spill reached Indonesia’s waters, and no long-term damage to the environment in the Timor Sea.

View original article at: Jakarta to sue Australian oil subsidiary over Montara spill

 

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