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The Montara Oil Spill

The Montara Oil Spill

Students are required to use correctly one of the following referencing systems for Task 2:

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The Montara Oil Spill

Description of the Issue
The world has been experiencing various disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes,
tornados, and other forms of natural disasters that pose threat to all living things. However, in
August 2009, Australia was attacked by an oil spill that took place in Montara oil field in the
Timor Sea, which was named Montara oil spill. Montara development project is owned by a
company known as PTTEPAA, a subsidiary of Thai production public company limited
(PTTEP) and PTT Exploration Company (Cheremisinoff, 2011). The development is situated at
Timor Sea that is approximately 250 kilometers in the western side of the Australian coast. The
spill occurred after the blowout and fire in the wellhead platform of Montara. Surprisingly, the
lick continued for the next 74 days without stoppage although the government and the company
worked hard to stop it. The intervention to stop it became successful on the third of November.
Within this time, the leak was spreading and threatening the lives of people along the shore.
Australian marine safety authority reported that the slick was about 170km from the coast of
western of Australia and was moving towards the shore (Guertin, & Neville, 2011). Thai
technicians estimated that the flow was about 1500 barrels in the early stages which reduce late
to 400 barrels.
The issue in Relation to Common Good and Social Justice
The Montara Oil Spill is an issue of common good or social justice. One of the most
dangerous disasters is oil spill. The spill poses threats to all of living things since it interferes
with the food chain. Benestad (2012) says that the effects of oil spill stays for years before it
ends. An example is Exxon Valdes oil spill which still has the effect on the environment. The

issue of montara oil spill looks at the welfare of animals and human beings. Oil on the surface is
capable of preventing the passage of oxygen into the sea. In this case, animals including fish are
killed destroying the food chain at that point. It is an issue of common good in that, the oil on the
surface of the sea can easily explode to an extent that kills plants and animals. The government
and the companies involved took a lot of time to stop the slick, however, the companies looked
at the welfare of individuals who were affected and rewarded handsomely. On top of that, as
assign of social justice and common good of the future generations, the government employed
strategies and rules that governs oil exploration so that individuals are not threatened and lives at
their best of state. Guertin and Neville (2011) say that by doing that, the government and the
responsible companies looked at the welfare of the society which is the principle of common
good and social justice.
Stakeholders and their Perspective
There are various groups known as the stakeholders who are involved in this issue in one
way or the other. Such stakeholders include the company who was responsible, the Australian
government where the issue occurred, the people of Timor who were affected by the issue, and
the environment which was affected by the issue. Their perspectives that are discussed here
evaluates whether they showed a concern of common good or social justice.
The companies such as Thai-based Company, PTTEP Australasia (PTTEP AA) did not
show the common good of the community at the early stages of the slick. Any person can agree
that with the help of the government and global companies, the slick could not stay for 74 days.
It is therefore the obligation of the company to act as fast as possible because its present in the
country is what has caused the spill. Later on, the companies accepted their responsibility that

showed social justice. Scibilia et al. (2012) argue that by just agreeing that they were
responsible, some people forgive them. The company has pleaded guilty of the act. Fitzpatrick
pleaded to be guilty and says that “Mistakes were made that should never be repeated.” The chief
executive ken says that “From the outset we have admitted responsibility for the incident and
deeply regret it occurring,” in this manner the gentlemen showed their concern for the
community about the incidence. The company went ahead and compensated those who were
directly affected by the incidence. The company has also changed the culture of operation which
assures people of unlikelihood of such incidences in future to protect communities and its
Secondly, show of social justice by the Australian government has been criticized in
several ways. First, the country prioritizes the economic development and leaves people and the
environment at a risk. Even before the incidence happened, the government new that exploration
of oil along the shore is not only unhealthy, but also put a lot of threats to the sea. A good way
they would have shown the social justice and common good is any prohibiting exploration of the
oil in the area. Two, other than just acting after 74 days to get the solution, the government took
long duration before compiling t reports about the incidence. It seems that the government is less
interested in the community affairs. Martin Ferguson The minister of resource and energy says
that the penalties will be put up to $ 320 dollars for companies that will be engaged in such in
incidences. According to Cook and Wasson (2013) such kind of penalties would have been long
time ago after observing the effects of oil spill of Exxon Valdes. As much as there are mitigation
processes about natural disaster, the Australian government has not shown social justice by just
giving a fine of $1.7billion to such a wealthy company.

The people of Timor are considered to have suffered the negative side of the social
justice. This is through the Australian, Indonesian government and the company. Both of the
above parties took considerable time to mitigate such a deadly accident. Report through
questionnaire identifies the three groups as very irresponsible and slow in matters that concern
several lives. Although the directly affected people were evicted and given shelter by the
government after the company compensation, indirectly affected people up to now pose threats
to the future generation. The report revealed that there are possibilities of liver intoxication that
results from oil compounds. These later problems have not been addresses by either the
governments or the company. Therefore, if these conditions are genetic as said by Benestad
(2012) the future generation is likely to be affected. All these acts violate the principle of social
justice and common good as the future generation is liable to suffer the sins they never
committed. It is for these reasons that the people of Timor have seen the other side of common
The role that the environment plays to both human beings and animals was violated. The
oil spill has affected the life of marine animals and fishes. The lives of birds were also
threatened as their wing got stuck on contact with the oil. The mitigation process of using
dispersant chemicals reached west Timor which resulted to loss of livelihood of many
individuals. The interest of economic development has passed the interest of the environment
which host animals and plants. If the government and the companies were in deed considering
the common good of individuals, they would have not used another chemical that could pose
more threat to people. The compensation does not reclaim the affected land. The company and
the government delays on the safe process of montara reclamations so that it becomes to be the
home of fauna and flora again.

Analysis of the Issue in Relation to the Stakeholders’ Perspective
There are stakeholders that became part of the issue to see a change in future. Their main
reasons are governed by the principles of common good and social justice. These stakeholders
believe on the principle of human flourishing which states that “to live within an optimal range
of human functioning, one that connotes goodness, generatively, growth, and resilience”
(Appleby & Kenny, 2010). Flourishing is the opposite of both languishing and pathology, which
are defined as living a life that feels empty and hollow. Flourishing is an optimistic psychology
notion, which is a degree of overall life well-being of individuals and is seen as important to the
idea of personal success and happiness. These stakeholders are the government, the environment
leaders, people of Timor and the religious leaders.
Environmental leaders argue that the environment is the home of all living things and
should be kept at high level of sanity. Pritchard, the Director of the Environs Kimberley
environment group argues that he was disappointed by the fine that was given to the company.
He says “it was an absolutely massive oil spill,” he argues that the fine was too small for an oil
exploration company. The environmentalists argue that making the environment clean by all
parties is a social justice and common good for both current and the future generation. It is for
this reason that Pritchard says that reclaiming the Montara region is more beneficial than
compensating the individuals. The point of environment reclamation arises from Exxon Valdes
that has taken years to be reclaimed and still pose threats to sea animals and fish. Leaders of the
environments’ arguments are based on the reports that the long existing compounds of oil can
intoxicate even the future generation. As a result, they say that the common good of people and
social justice will only come after the environment where man leaves is made safe for their
existence.  Benestad (2012) adds that in making political and economic decisions, states should

focus and evaluates the effects on such decisions on the environment which is the home of
When the interests of individuals come to be the priority of the nation, social justice
becomes the order of the day (Renn, Baram, & Lindøe, 2014). That is the stand of Timor people.
In this situation, the government gives the economic development a priority and neglects the
citizens. Melé (2014) says that when the economic principle become the priority of the state, the
leaders can do anything including sacrificing the citizens to gain political and economic fame. As
the stakeholder of the issue, the agreement between the companies and the government to allow
the oil exploration on shore without proper precaution of spills which have been seen in other
countries was a move to violate the social justice and common good of the citizens. Thus, there
point concerning social justice is that people’s interests in a country should come first before the
economic interest. In this case, people of Timor are likely to get intoxicated; they have been
evicted from their place of living hence the principle human flourishing is violated as people of
Timor live under condition that they must survive.
The religious leaders draw their argument from religious perspective and sandwich it
with human flourishing. They say that no human being should suffer the consequences of other
human beings. The act of subjecting innocent individuals to serious suffering such as contacting
liver diseases does not only violates religious principles but is also injustice. The religious
consequences of the act are harsh and can lead to total demolition of the company out of the
country. Religious leaders also agree with environmental leaders that the company has been
given small fine that is incomparable to the effects It has caused to the future generation that will
be affected by the oil compounds since it takes years to disappear from the environment. In a bid
to stop future explosion, the religious leaders called for an environment that regards God’s

creations as important aspects in the world. Hence, a culture that respects them should be
The fact that the government has employed and initiated acts such as a fine of $320
billion on companies that may be caught in such incidence in future will assist to guard the
common good. In this manner, the companies will ensure that every aspect of precaution and
mitigation actions is put in place to avoid human humiliation and violate the social justice. The
government has also provided the shelter of the evictee after compensation that calls for the
principle of human flourishing. Although people of Timor are complaining of future effects of
the oils spill, the government has solved the current problem.
Following this discussion, it important to negotiate a balance that exists between social
justice and development; environmentally sustainable development and just development. After
evaluating those aspects regarding this case study, a definition of social justice, human
flourishing, and common good will be automatically seen. Therefore, the oil company should put
the interest of its citizens first before the development interest. The company should also look for
better solutions of such predicaments if they happen in future. If those factors are observed, both
the company and the government will be institutions that foster human flourishing, common
good, and social justice.



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Good: Catholic Contributions toward a Public Health Ethics. Christian Bioethics: Non-
Ecumenical Studies In Medical Morality, 16(3), 296-313
Benestad, J. (2012). 4. Seeking the Common Good through Justice and Social Justice. In
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Cheremisinoff, N. P., & Davletshin, A. R. (2011). Emergency Response Management of Offshore
Oil Spills : Guidelines for Emergency Responders. Salem, MA: Scrivener
Cook, E., & Wasson, K. (2013). The Common Good and Common Harm. National Catholic
Bioethics Quarterly, 13(4), 617-624.
Guertin, L., & Neville, S. (2011). Utilizing Google Earth to Teach Students about Global Oil
Spill Disasters. Science Activities, 48(1), 1-8.
Melé, D. (2014). ‘Human Quality Treatment’: Five Organizational Levels. Journal Of Business
Ethics, 120(4), 457-471. 
Renn, O., Baram, M. S., & Lindøe, P. (2014). Risk Governance of Offshore Oil and Gas
Operations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Scibilia, D. P., Giamario, P., & Rogers, M. (2009). Learned Piety: Education for Justice and the
Common Good in Jesuit Secondary Education. Peace & Change, 34(1), 49-61.

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