Proposed Great Australian Bight audit fails on multiple fronts

SYDNEY, 2 July 2019. The Federal Government has decided that the adequacy of regulation surrounding offshore drilling will be 'out of scope' of an audit to be carried out on Norwegian oil giant Equinor's plans to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight, a document released yesterday revealed.

The audit of the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) ‘s assessment of Equinor’s plans to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight, ordered after intense community backlash, will fail to take into consideration numerous factors – including legislative and regulatory frameworks, proper community consultation, and the very real threat of a catastrophic oil spill.

“Equinor’s plans would be illegal in their home country of Norway, and yet this audit leaves out the critical question of what Norwegian regulators know that Australia’s don’t. Australian law simply isn’t strong enough to protect us from the risk of a catastrophic oil mega-spill. Given that this review explicitly refuses to address that issue, why would the community have any trust in its outcomes?” said Jamie Hanson, Head of Campaigns at Greenpeace Australia Pacific.

“The proposed audit fails to take into account Australia’s grossly inadequate legislative and regulatory frameworks when it comes to deep-sea offshore drilling. Further, the government has decided to conduct the review behind closed doors, with any evidence gathered to be revealed only at their discretion.”

“A proper audit of oil-drilling in the Bight – especially drilling to such a depth, in extraordinarily rough seas – would find that the risks are unacceptable, because of the very real threat of a catastrophic and completely uncontrolled oil mega-spill.”

Equinor’s proposed Stromlo-1 well will be drilled to a depth of 2,239m, in some of the roughest seas on earth. Equinor aims to start drilling as soon as 2020.

Modelling released by Equinor in 2018 shows that a vast area of the southern and eastern Australian coastline could be impacted by an oil spill, from Perth in Western Australia right along the southern coastline, to World Heritage Areas in Tasmania, the Victorian coastline and even north of Sydney and up to Coffs Harbour.

“While we trust NOPSEMA to act with the best intentions, the question is whether they’re equipped to able to assess an extreme oil project of this nature – one that is unprecedented in Australia and has rarely been contemplated anywhere in the world. How can we be sure coastal communities are safe?”

“When it comes to extreme oil projects like these, it’s not a matter of if a catastrophic oil mega-spill will occur, but when – the risk cannot be eliminated. The only way to guarantee the safety of marine wildlife and coastal communities is to rule out drilling in the first place.”

For more information or interviews contact Greenpeace Australia Pacific Communications Campaigner, Martin Zavan ([email protected]) on 0424 295 422