“There is no way a 25,000 liter oil spill can be called ‘negligible,'” Ms Wood said.
“This is the same Santos who less than 10 years ago was allowed to go unpunished for a 250,000 liter oil spill in Queensland, narrowly avoiding widespread contamination of nearby water systems.”
There is little public information on the frequency and extent of oil spills in Australian waters. But at 25,000 litres, the Varanus Island incident is believed to be more than double the size of a 10,500 liter leak from a Woodside well in 2016, the largest reported that year.
A 2019 Santos environmental approval submission listed 19 endangered species of sharks, whales, turtles and birds that may be present on Varanus Island or in the surrounding waters.
Santos is currently drilling exploration wells further up the WA coast from Varanus Island to determine whether it could expand its Dorado oil project which is due for approval in 2022.
Ms Wood said regulators should reconsider the terms given to Santos in light of the spill.
Santos’ spokeswoman said she is reviewing the incident to identify and implement a recurrence.
The Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety Executive Director Karen Caple said the regulator would ensure Santos’ spill response is in line with approved plans and that the company meets its reporting requirements.