Ten years on from one of Australia’s worst oil spills all the conditions remain in place for a repeat
SYDNEY, Aug 21, 2019 - Ten years ago today the Montara well blowout caused more than 23 million litres of oil to poison the waters of the Timor Sea, and yet the hands-off inspection regime that led to the disaster remains in place as Norwegian oil giant Equinor plans to drill in the Great Australian Bight.
Ten years ago today the Montara well blowout caused more than 23 million litres of oil to poison the waters of the Timor Sea, and yet the hands-off inspection regime that led to the disaster remains in place as Norwegian oil giant Equinor plans to drill in the Great Australian Bight.
On August 21, 2009, an explosion at the Montara offshore oil rig set off an environmental disaster that saw crude oil spew into the ocean for 74 days, harming marine life over a 90,000 square kilometre swathe of ocean, and destroying the seaweed crops that Indonesian farmers had relied upon to escape from poverty.
“One of the worst things about this disaster is the failure of governments and the regulator to remedy the flawed inspection process that allowed the spill to occur,” Greenpeace Australia Pacific Senior Campaigner Nathaniel Pelle said.
“This self-regulation combined with oil companies’ corner-cutting makes every offshore oil rig a potential ticking time bomb.”
“The anniversary of this institutional failure should serve as a wake-up call as the industry regulator weighs up Equinor’s proposal to drill in the rough and ultradeep waters of the Great Australian Bight.”
“Equinor is displaying the kind of reckless overconfidence that often precedes catastrophic accidents.”
Since the Montara disaster, the regulatory environment has changed, but Australian law still falls dangerously short of global standards – as does Equinor’s Bight plan, which would be illegal in Norway based on it oil spill response plan.
Mr Pelle warned that a spill in the Great Australian Bight could dwarf the Montara disaster in terms of the impact on marine life and Southern Australia’s fishing and tourism industries.
“BP admitted a worst-case spill in the Bight could be bigger than Deepwater Horizon while Equinor’s own spill map shows that beaches across the entire southern coast, from Western Australia to Port Macquarie, in New South Wales, are at risk of being blanketed in oil,” he said.
“Ineffective regulation makes this nightmare scenario a real threat because when it comes to extreme oil projects like this, it’s not a matter of if a spill will occur, but when. The only way to protect coastal communities and the Great Australian Bight’s unique marine life is to rule out drilling permanently.”
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For interviews with Greenpeace Senior Campaigner Nathaniel Pelle
Greenpeace Australia Pacific Communications Campaigner, Martin Zavan
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