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Australian Senate to probe BP’s Bight oil drilling plans

THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY INC. MEDIA RELEASE February 22, 2016
 
Australian Senate to probe BP’s Bight oil drilling plans
 
  • Senate inquiry to shine light on secretive NOPSEMA approvals process
  • Senate having to do work of Federal Environment Department
  • BP will be treating Senate with contempt if it resubmits plans before report tabled
 
The Australian Senate will shine a much-needed spotlight on BP’s plans to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight after it voted for an inquiry into the matter.
 
“The inquiry presents a much-needed opportunity to properly scrutinise the environmental, economic and social impacts of BP’s plans to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight, especially with the company in such a precarious financial situation,” said Wilderness Society National Director Lyndon Schneiders.
 
Australia’s offshore oil and gas authority, NOPSEMA, has already rejected BP’s first application to drill four exploration wells in the Bight because of inadequacies in its plans but did not reveal details to the public. NOPSEMA had earlier said BP needs a comprehensive risk assessment and a comprehensive oil pollution emergency plan.
 
Independent modelling, released last year, showed that an oil spill in the Bight from a deep-sea well blowout would be devastating for fisheries, marine life and tourism. The model shows that an oil spill in the Great Australian Bight could result in the closure of fisheries in the Bight, Bass Strait and even the Tasman Sea. Even a low-flow oil spill could impact all of southern Australia’s coast, from Western Australia right across to Victoria through Bass Strait and around Tasmania.
 
BP was responsible for the world’s biggest oil spill accident, the Deepwater Horizon tragedy in 2010, with 800 million litres of oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico for 87 days.
 
“The Senate now has to do the work of the Federal Environment Department after the approvals process was given to NOPSEMA,” Mr Schneiders said.
 
The Senate’s Environment and Communications References Committee will look into the potential environmental, social and economic impacts of BP’s planned exploratory oil drilling project and any future oil or gas production in the Great Australian Bight. The committee will have to report back by May 12 even though the Environment Department would likely have needed at least 12 months to thoroughly complete the environmental assessment for a new deep-sea oil-drilling precinct.
 
“BP should not resubmit its application to drill in the Great Australian Bight until the Senate committee has reported back, unless it wants to treat the Senate and the Australian people with contempt,” said Wilderness Society South Australia Director Peter Owen. “It’s time for BP to properly listen to the deep concerns many stakeholders and affected communities have about this risky project.”
 
For further comment contact:
Wilderness Society National Director Lyndon Schneiders (Canberra) on 0451 633 200
Wilderness Society South Australia Director Peter Owen on 0423 550 018
 
For more information, contact Wilderness Society media adviser Alex Tibbitts on 0416 420 168
 
comms team