Govt Seeks Huge Payout for Oil Spill

JAKARTA

The government is seeking more than US$1 billion in compensation for environ-mental damage from an oil spill at a Thai-run rig off Australia’s northwest coast, a report said on Thursday.

Transportation Minister Freddy Numberi said the claim was for more than $1.1 billion. “The amount is big enough,” Numberi was quoted as saying by Dow Jones Newswires.

Government representatives are said to be ready to table the demand during talks with PTT Australasia, a unit of Thailand’s PTT Exploration and Prod-uction PCL, in the Australian city of Perth on Thursday.

Numberi is leading the government delegation to Perth and said the claim was “backed by detailed data,” amid questions about the provability of the damage to marine ecosystems and fisheries from last year’s spill.

PTT Exploration’s Chief Executive Anon Sirisaengtaksin said the company, a subsidiary of Thailand’s state oil firm, had not received a compensation claim from the Indonesian government.

“The figure isn’t an issue right now. We must set up a joint body to verify evidence whether there was any impact. We’re ready to support them,” Anon said.

The leak in the Timor Sea known as the Montara spill, from August 21 to November 3, was the worst at an offshore oil platform in Australian history, although smaller than the recent BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Like the BP spill, it dragged on for months as the company tried to plug the flow with a relief well, a process which eventually succeeded.

It also led to calls for tougher regulation of offshore drilling and criticism of the authorities responsible for monitoring the operation.

Evidence given at a commission of inquiry showed the Montara slick grew to almost 90,000 square kilometres and entered Indonesian waters, according to environmental group WWF.

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