Greenpeace welcomes ALP’s ‘moratorium’ on drilling in the Bight

SYDNEY, May 16, 2019: Greenpeace Australia Pacific has today welcomed the Labor Party’s new commitment that a Shorten Labor government would block Equinor’s oil drilling approval from proceeding in the Great Australian Bight until an independent scientific study into the impacts of an oil spill is completed.

The independent study will be commissioned by the Federal Environment and Resource Ministers, and no approval will be granted before the study is completed. Currently, the regulator NOPSEMA is set to make an initial decision on Equinor’s plan by 25 May.

“The ALP has clarified and strengthened its position in the days leading up to the Federal election, by effectively committing to a moratorium on drilling in the Bight until an independent scientific study into the impacts of drilling is completed,” said Greenpeace senior campaigner Nathaniel Pelle.

“A stay of execution is welcome. But it’s clear a total ban on drilling in the Bight is warranted.”

“We already know from modelling produced by BP and Equinor that an oil spill could reach any point on the southern Australian coastline from Western Australia to Coffs Harbour in Northern New South Wales.

“We also know from the Deepwater Horizon and Exxon Valdez disasters that any real oil spill clean up is a myth – the damage from oil spills lasts for decades,” said Pelle.

A report from Alaskan oil spill expert Professor Rick Steiner in November found that a worst case scenario spill would be impossible to clean up and could cost up to A$118 billion.

“Once you’ve spilled it, you’ve lost the battle. There is very little that can be done to contain the oil, recover it, clean beaches, rehabilitate oiled wildlife, or restore spill-injured ecosystems,” said Professor Steiner.

A report from Professor Tina Soliman Hunter in April this year found that Bight drilling is high-risk, Australia’s regulation of deepwater oil drilling falls short of global best practice, and that Equinor’s plans would be illegal in Norway.

“The proposal to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight is exceptional in terms of the risk of a drilling accident occurring and the difficulties in responding to an incident,” said Professor Tina Soliman Hunter.

“Equinor’s proposal for response measures in the case of a loss of well control in the Great Australian Bight wouldn’t be permitted by the Norwegian regulator.”

Independents, including Damien Cole in Corangamite, Rob Oakeshott in Cowper, and Kerryn Phelps in Wentworth, oppose drilling in the Bight. The Greens and Centre Alliance both have clear policies that would protect the Bight from oil drilling permanently, with Rebekha Sharkie declaring protection of the Bight a condition of support in the event of a hung parliament.

“The Labor Party has responded to the growing calls from international experts, surfers, the fishing industry, and everyday Australians who love our beaches, by delaying this dangerous proposal to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight pending an independent inquiry.”

“If Bill Shorten is elected on Saturday, and is truly committed to putting the environment before oil company profits, he’ll go one step further and rule the project out completely,” said Pelle.

For comment and context please contact – James Norman, 0451291775 | [email protected]

Professor Rick Steiner’s report is available here:

https://www.greenpeace.org.au/research/crude-intentions/

Professor Tina Soliman Hunter’s report is available here:

https://www.greenpeace.org.au/research/offshore-petroleum-drilling-risk/