Public debate around drilling in the Great Australian Bight has been influenced by non-factual information, according to a leading industry body.
South Australian Chamber of Mines and Energy Chief Executive Rebecca Knol said misconceptions around oil drilling has caused unfavourable public reactions to Equinor’s plan to drill an exploratory well in the Bight next year.
The Norwegian-based company released a draft environmental plan for public comment in February this year, but has drawn significant levels of criticism from environmental groups, local councils and members of the general public.
Ms Knol said many of Equnior’s opponents were ill-informed.
“It is apparent from the commentary that many public responses were influenced by material circulating online, which grossly misrepresented both the risk and consequences of a major oil spill,” she said at a conference this week in Adelaide.
“This misleading information has generated expressions of genuine fear and concern in many of the submissions when the public debate should be entrenched in a higher standard of factual and balanced information.”
Ms Knol said Equinor had made substantial efforts to keep all parties well informed of its activities.
“It has been the first company to publish their draft environmental plans to the community for consultation ahead of the formal submission to the regulator,” she said.
“In doing so, Equinor has demonstrated a level of transparency and dedication to community consultation that has spread across SA regional communities and involved more than 250 meetings with local South Australians.”
Ms Knol also dismissed the actions of Fortescue Metals Group Chairman and prominent billionaire Andrew Forrest, who has voiced his opposition to drilling in the Bight, saying his comments hurt the same industry he belonged to.
“This example of industry cannibalism is unacceptable but is born out of deep commercial competitiveness,” she said.
“Like a developer desperate to attract investment, such commentary does not consider the whole of industry ramifications.”
Equinor is the operator and 100 per cent owner of offshore exploration permits EPP 39 and 40 located in the Bight.
If the company’s plans are approved, it is aiming to commence the proposed Stromlo-1 drilling program in late 2020.
Equinor is currently reviewing approximately 30,000 submissions made on their draft environmental plan.
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