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Equinor knocked back as toxic spill plans revealed

Norwegian oil company Equinor has had its proposal to drill in the Great Australian Bight rejected for a second time, after again failing to convince the safety regulator it can drill without putting the entire southern coast of Australia at risk of a catastrophic oil spill.

On November 11 the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) requested Equinor revise its environment plan, which was again judged to have fallen short of required safety standards. The regulator highlighted shortcomings across all major aspects of Equinor’s plan including preventing an accident, oil spill risk, consulting relevant persons and managing threats to the Bight’s unique marine life.

“This is the second time that NOPSEMA has asked Equinor to fill in the gaps in its drilling plan despite the company having more than two years and several attempts to get it right. BP was rejected multiple times, then it gave up its plans to drill the Great Australian Bight. Equinor should do the same,” Greenpeace Australia Pacific Senior Campaigner Nathaniel Pelle said.

Noah Schultz-Byard, Director of The Australia Institute, South Australia, said: “We know that this project doesn’t make sense economically for South Australia and it’s becoming increasingly clear that the environmental case doesn’t stack up either.”

Minimal revenue for Sth Australia

“Australia Institute research has shown that South Australia stands to gain just one tenth of one percent of total state revenues from the project over its 40-year lifetime.

“We already know that 60% of Australians and 68% of South Australians are opposed to opening up the Bight for oil drilling.

“Australia Institute research demonstrates more than 10,000 South Australian jobs in coastal tourism, fisheries and aquaculture rely on the Bight and our healthy oceans to survive. A significant oil spill in the Great Australian Bight would be a disaster for the South Australian economy.

“Accelerating the transition to renewable sources of energy, rather than opening up new fossil fuel frontiers makes sense both in terms of tackling climate change and for South Australia’s economy.”

Equinor plans to use toxic dispersants

Equinor’s knock-back came as Greenpeace released a report revealing that oil companies in Australia have stockpiled over 350 tonnes of oil dispersants, including Corexit 9500, which are toxic chemicals used to clean up oil spills. However, Corexit is no longer permitted in Australia, because studies show it harms people and marine life. Despite this, approval has been given for oil companies to spray the banned substance into the environment until existing stores are exhausted.

Equinor plans to use Australia’s stockpile of Corexit dispersant, and others like it, to respond to catastrophic oil spills in the Great Australian Bight, as well as shipping in thousands of tonnes of dispersants from overseas. However, Equinor’s Environment Plan has not defined how its use of dispersants will affect the environment.

Following the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010, 6.9 million litres of dispersants were sprayed onto the surface of the spill as well as injected directly into the erupting well-head. Yet, this was done without prior research to determine what levels of exposure would be harmful to humans or marine life.

Since 2010, studies have demonstrated that Corexit and other dispersants harm whales and other marine mammals, fish, crustaceans, plankton, corals, and the workers and fishers who respond to the spill.

• Download the report here:

https://www.greenpeace.org.au/wp/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/GPR5188-Equinor-Report-R2-%C6%92-1-1.pdf

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