A ‘David and Goliath’ campaign between a small rural community in Australia, supported by OceanCare and Silent Oceans partners, and a group of global petroleum giants has been raging for nearly four years. Now ‘David’ won an important victory.
BP has proposed to drill four exploration wells in the offshore marine waters in the Great Australian Bight, in Southern Australia. They are looking for commercial quantities of hydrocarbon resources in the area. The wells will be drilled using a mobile offshore drilling unit that will either be dynamically positioned, moored with anchors, or a combination of these methods.
The local community, especially focused on Kangaroo Island, has vehemently opposed this plan, along with 3 other proposals in the region. Their concern has consistently been stated–for marine wildlife and for their fishing industry.
The Australian National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) signaled last month it was unhappy with the exploration plan for oil and gas in the Bight, saying it would take extra time to consider.
Against the odds, on 16th November 2015, NOPSEMA decided it was not satisfied with BP’s environment plan for exploration drilling.
The Great Australian Bight is home to many threatened and endangered species–Australian sea lions, great white sharks, humpback, blue and southern right whales, southern bluefin tuna, white-bellied sea eagle and albatross. The iconic curve of the coastline is the longest line of sea cliffs in the world, stretching hundreds of kilometres and reaching up to 60 metres high.
Research by the Potsdam Institute calculates that to reduce the chance of exceeding 2°C warming to 20 percent, the global carbon budget to 2050 is 565 Gt CO2. Governments and global markets are treating as assets, reserves equivalent to nearly 5 times this carbon budget. Only 20 percent of the total reserves can be used to stay below 2°C. Yet, the hydrocarbon industry ambition is to increase fossil fuel use into the future.
“This is a special area of the world. The waters are a critically important nursery for Australian sea lion colonies to raise pups and for southern right whales to nurture their calves. This place deserves better than a risk of oil spills”, Sigrid Lüber, OceanCare President said. “Government facilitation of the petroleum industry exploration for new reserves in offshore areas like the Great Australian Bight is profoundly irresponsible. We urge BP to withdraw from this proposal entirely.”
The Australian regulations give BP two opportunities to submit a modified plan to NOPSEMA, within agreed time frames. These modified submissions will be assessed by NOPSEMA all over again.
Unless BP withdraws entirely the campaign will continue, but the moral victory in this strategic battle is very sweet–especially for the small rural community of Kangaroo Island and Silent Oceans.