Bight drilling faces legal action

The National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) recently accepted Norwegian-based Equinor’s environmental plan (EP) for exploratory drilling off the coast of South Australia.

The project has faced widespread community objections with locals concerned over the impacts seismic testing or an oil spill would have on marine life and the coastal environment.

Owed to these concerns, the EDO has now commenced legal proceedings – on behalf of The Wilderness Society South Australia – based on a legal requirement under Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006 for consultation with concerned organisations.

This consultation process ensures that all risks are identified and properly assessed, which the EDO claims Equinor refused to do by not involving The Wilderness Society in its consultations.

“We are arguing on behalf of our client that NOPSEMA made a legal error by approving the exploration, in circumstances where consultation from Equinor did not meet the basic regulatory requirements,” claimed the EDO, who are asking the Federal Court to overturn NOPSEMA’s approval decision.

Equinor’s drilling regime has also faced backlash due to public concern regarding new fossil fuel reserve development at a time when urgent cuts to greenhouse gas emissions are needed.

International Energy Industry Executive Director Fatih Birol said every part of the industry will need to consider how to respond to the threat of climate change.

“The scale of the climate challenge requires a broad coalition encompassing governments, investors, companies and everyone else who is genuinely committed to reducing emissions,” said Dr Birol.

“That effort requires the oil and gas industry to be firmly and fully on board.”

In February 2019, Equinor released a 500-page plan demonstrating how to ensure the drilling process could be undertaken safely, along with a robust emergency response plan.

Equinor Country Manager for Australia Jone Stangeland said the plan was a result of two years of careful preparation, including consultations with more than 100 different organisations in the South Australian community.

“The EP documents the existing environment in the Great Australian Bight and describes all relevant risks, however unlikely,” said Mr Stangeland.

“By identifying every possible risk, we can better prepare for safe operations.”

Drilling in the Bight as previously drawn support from Federal Resources Minister Matt Canavan who said the operation could help Australia become self-sufficient in oil supply.

If Equinor goes ahead with its plan, the company will drill the Stromlo-1 exploration well in the offshore Ceduna sub-basin late in 2020.

For more information visit the EDO website.

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