Equinor will never have Australia’s approval to drill the Great Australian Bight and should abandon its plans

SYDNEY, 18 December - The Australian national oil and petroleum safety regulator has today approved Norwegian oil giant Equinor’s plans to drill for oil in the extremely rough and deep waters of the Great Australian Bight, smack in the middle of a critical whale nursery.

Today’s approval of Equinor’s environment plan for exploratory petroleum drilling in the Bight is the second of four approvals required before drilling activity can commence. The final decision on whether to press ahead still rests with Equinor executives in Oslo, but the company has so far signalled its intent to drill from November 2020.

“Today’s approval flies in the face of experts, communities, Traditional Owners, surfers, coastal families, and the South Australian seafood industry, who have all relentlessly campaigned against plans to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight for over five years,” said Jamie Hanson, Head of Campaigns at Greenpeace Australia Pacific.

“Equinor is a sloppy operator. That’s shown by some of the conditions in this approval – the company has been ordered to consult appropriately with the Mirning and Ngarrindjeri Nations. It is flabbergasting that they have to this date refused to do so, despite the pleas of elders and community members.

“NOPSEMA have also made it a condition of approval that the company demonstrate that it has appropriate spill response equipment before it drills. Equinor has obviously failed to satisfy the regulator of that yet. Approval in this context is astounding, given that Equinor’s operations in the North Sea have seen explosions and oil leaks even in recent months.

“Equinor simply can’t be trusted to operate in the pristine waters of the Great Australian Bight without risk of the type of serious incidents that would coat Australia’s much-loved beaches in black oil.

“This disastrous decision paves the way for an oil company that has a worsening safety record, and a history of accidents all over the world, to conduct dangerous, experimental drilling in Australia’s whale nursery in the Great Australian Bight.

“Equinor’s unsafe plan will never be accepted by the Australian people. The regulator’s decision has been made despite the opposition of almost every Australian stakeholder with an interest in the Bight, from surfers to seafood producers to Traditional Owners.”

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