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Coffs Coast surfers Fight for the Bight

Source: The Advocate Coffs Coast

COFFS Coast Surfrider is calling for surfers and ocean lovers to take a stand against plans to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight at a paddle-out this Sunday at 10am at the Jetty Foreshores North Wall beach.

Local campaigners getting behind the Fight for the Bight campaign. Picture: Chris Hewgill.

Local campaigners getting behind the Fight for the Bight campaign. Picture: Chris Hewgill.

The Hands across the Sands action is part of a national strategy to oppose the Norwegian mining giant Equinor. 

The multinational is proposing to drill 372km off the Australian coastline, in pristine waters that are home to many species of marine life and also a Southern Right Whale breeding area.

Coffs Coast Surfrider spokesperson Jonathan Cassell said mining oil in the Australian Bight is a significant concern for many Coffs Harbour locals who understand the risks far outweigh any financial benefit.

"These are the roughest seas on the planet and no matter what the economic benefits, the potential for an industrial disaster along the Australian coastline is too great," Jonathan said. 

"Modelling by British Petroleum shows an oil spill in this part of the world would spread a slick across thousands of kilometres with moderate shoreline contact along the coast of NSW.

"A recent information night in Sawtell attracted around 100 people, so we know this is an important issue for many locals on the Coffs Coast."

National coordinator and Valla Beach local Heath Joske will speak at the paddle out event on behalf of the Great Australian Bight Alliance after returning this week from the Equinor AGM in Norway.

"Over 31,000 Australians have written submissions opposing the licenses to drill in the Great Australian Bight and paddle outs have happened all around Australian with over 20,000 people nationwide so far," Heath said.

"We want to send the Morrison government and newly elected Nationals MP Patrick Conaghan a reminder that the LNP promised during their election campaign that they would review Equinor's exploration licence."

Full story here

Climate Change Election: where do parties stand and what can we expect after Saturday?

Source: Reneweconomy.com.au

Michael Mazengarb reports —
Six years ago, following the election of the Abbott Government, the renewable energy industry, and prospects for climate change were cast into a pretty dark period. Strong climate policies were unwound, and investment in new clean energy projects came to a standstill.

At times there seemed to be little hope that climate change could register as a major vote-winning issue in Australian politics.

However, the political environment has turned dramatically in recent years, as the impacts and threats of climate change grow more apparent. According to ABC’s Vote Compass, the economy was by far the most important issue to voters six years ago –  climate change ranked fourth place, behind asylum seekers, and health and hospitals.

In 2019, Vote Compass finds that environment is now top, followed by the economy and then health and super/pensions.

RenewEconomy has taken a look at where each of the three largest parties, the Liberal-National Coalition, the Australian Labor Party, and the Greens stand on climate change, what key groups have had to say about their platforms and their prospects for this year’s election.

We also take a look at some of the independents to watch.

Full details here

Drilling for oil in the Great Australian Bight would be disastrous for marine life and the local community

Source: The Conversation
Sarah Duffy Lecturer, School of Business, Western Sydney University
Christopher Wright Professor of Organisational Studies, University of Sydney
The Great Australian Bight is home to a unique array of marine life. More than 85% of species in this remote stretch of rocky coastline are not found anywhere else in the world. It’s also potentially one of “Australia’s largest untapped oil reserves”, according to Norwegian energy company Equinor.

Equinor has proposed to drill a deepwater oil well 370km offshore to a depth of more than two kilometres in search of oil.

But a recent poll showed seven out of ten South Australian voters are against drilling in the Bight. And hundreds of people recently gathered on an Adelaide beach in protest.

Their main concerns include the lack of economic benefits for local communities, more fossil fuel investment, weak regulation and the potential for an oil spill, devastating our “Great Southern Reef”.

Drilling in the Great Australian Bight has occurred since the 1960s, but never as deep as what Equinor has proposed.

The Coalition government argues the project will improve energy security and bring money and jobs to the region. Labor announced recently that, if elected, it would commission a study on the consequences of a spill in the region.

So what’s the worst that could happen?
A spill could leak between 4.3 million barrels and 7.9 million barrels – the largest oil spill in history, according to estimates from the 2016 Worst Credible Discharge report, authored by Equinor and its former joint-venture partner, BP.

The Bight is a wild place, with violent storms and strong winds and waves. The geography is remote, unmonitored, largely unpopulated and lacks physical infrastructure to respond effectively to an oil spill.

In such an event, Equinor has said it would take 17 days to respond in a best-case scenario. The worst-case scenario is 39 days, and the goal scenario is 26 days.

In modelling for the worst-case scenario, the company predicts the oil from a spill could even reach from Albany in Western Australia to Port Macquarie in New South Wales.

How likely is an oil spill?
Reports from Norwegian regulators, compiled by Greenpeace, reveal Equinor had more than 50 safety and control breaches, including ten oil leaks, in the last three-and-a-half years. Each incident occurred in regulatory environments with stricter conditions than in Australia.

Our independent regulator, NOPSEMA, does not require inspections of wells during construction to ensure they meet safety standards.

This can be disastrous. For instance, the failure to properly construct the Montara Well in the North West Shelf caused the worst oil spill in Australian history. …

Read more at The Conversation

Great Australian Bight oil-drilling opponents take protest to sea off Norway capital Oslo

Source: Gabriella Marchant, ABC news
More than 100 activists have braved the chilly waters off Oslo in a paddle-out protest against oil drilling proposed for the Great Australian Bight.

Norwegian oil company Equinor wants to search for oil off the coast of South Australia by the end of 2020, but needs approval from the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) to begin.

Local Norwegians joined an Australian delegation of Indigenous and environmental activists who had flown in to protest ahead of Equinor's annual general meeting in Oslo on Wednesday.

Organiser Peter Dawson told the ABC it was the largest paddle-out demonstration ever held in Norway, even though the water was only 8 degrees Celsius.

“It was incredibly moving and heartening to see Norwegians not only paddling side by side with Australians, but chanting ‘fight for the Bight’ as loud as they possibly could,” the Wiradjuri man said.
“I was in the water, surrounded by hundreds of Norwegian surfers splashing and chanting, with Mirning Aboriginal elder Bunna Lawrie in the centre, singing in his traditional language.”

The Norwegian Government has a 67 per cent majority stake in Equinor.

"Norwegians are concerned that their state-owned oil company is planning to drill in a pristine marine wilderness area in Australia despite the obvious risks and the widespread community opposition," Mr Dawson said.

Mirning people are the traditional owners of the land that borders the Bight, and Mr Lawrie met with Norwegian indigenous Sami people, to discuss their shared experiences with the industry in the two countries.

"The message to Equinor today was clear: this is the wrong project at the wrong time in history," Mr Dawson said.

"The Bight is an utterly inappropriate place for risky deep-sea oil drilling and we can't be opening up new frontier oil fields while the world's scientists are telling us we need to transition away from fossil fuels."

Full story here

Fra Australia til Norge for å protestere mot Equinor-planer / From Australia to Norway to argue against Equinor-plans

Source: NRK, Norway

Tore Tollersrud Journalist
Marit Kolberg Journalist 
Published May 13 at 02:03

OSLO (NRK: NO) Søndag padlet et hundretalls demonstranter ut på fjorden midt i Oslo sentrum for å protestere mot Equinors planlagte oljeboring i Sør-Australia.

Surfere protesterte mot Equinors planlagte oljeboring i Sør-Australia.

Tidligere har surfere padlet ut i vannet utenfor strender i Australia i protest mot Equinors planer om oljeleting i landet.

I dag kom padleprotestene til Norge og operahuset i Oslo.

Budskapet var det samme: ikke start oljeleting «down under».

– Vi ber Equinor trekke seg ut. De planlegger å bore i et svært sårbart område. Hvis noe går galt der, vil det være en katastrofe. Vi ber det norske folk legge press på Equinor slik at de trekker seg ut, sier aksjonens leder Peter Owen til NRK.

Han påpeker at både BP og Exxon har droppet sine planer i området og mener det vil være ødeleggende for det norske firmaet sitt rykte hvis de fortsetter.

Equinors landsjef Australia, Jone Stangeland, sier til NRK at selskapet har brukt to år på utarbeide en miljøplan og at de kan gjennomføre boringen med lave utslipp.

– Vi har levert inn en miljøplan som myndighetene nå skal behandle, og vi går videre med våre planer med en planlagt borestart i slutten av 2020, sier Stangeland

Full story at NRK

Peter Owen, The Great Australian Bight Alliance / Foto: Arld Sandsvik / NRK

Peter Owen, The Great Australian Bight Alliance / Foto: Arld Sandsvik / NRK

English translation
(NRK: NO) Sunday, hundreds of protesters paddled out on the fjord in the middle of Oslo city center to argue against Equinors planned oil drilling in the South Australia.

Surfers objected against Equinors planned oil drilling in South Australia. Previously surfers paddled out in the water outside the beaches in Australia in protest against Equinors plans for oil exploration in the country.

Then came the day the paddle protests came to Norway and the opera house in Oslo.

The message was the same: “Do not start the oil exploration down under.”

“We ask Equinor to extract itself. They plan to drill in a very sensitive area. If something goes wrong there will be a disaster. We ask the Norwegian people to put pressure on the Equinor so that they pull out,” says aksjonens manager Peter Owen told NRK.

He points out that both BP and Exxon Mobil have dropped their plans in the area and believe it will be damaging for the Norwegian company’s reputation if they continue.

Equinors Country Manager Australia, Jone Stangeland, says to NRK that the company has spent two years on the prepare an environmental plan and that they can complete the bore with low emissions.

“We have delivered an environment plan to the authorities to process, and we go on with our plans to start drilling at the end of 2020," says Strangeland

Norske surfere samlet seg i protest mot Equinor foran Operaen / Norwegian surfers gathered in protest against Equinor in front of the Opera House

English translation

A celebrity billionaire, a queen and an overall surf elite are among those protesting against Norwegian oil drilling in Australia: the planned oil exploration is perceived as madness.

On Sunday, surfers and environmentalists gathered for a very non-traditional protest in the Norwegian context.It is a rare sight so deep in the Oslofjord.

“The meeting here says something about the growing opposition also here in Norway,” said head of Greenpeace Norway, Frode Pleym.

The protest is against Equinor, the state-dominated oil company that plans to look for oil in the Great Australian Bight, the sea area just south of Australia.

Equinor has been met with major protests both locally and internationally, which believe that the scenic area is too vulnerable to oil exploration.

Paddle out against Equinor
First, the surf boards gently splashes in the Oslo fjord.Then the surfers throw themselves after, one by one, into the icy water. But the sun shines, and the surfers have thick wetsuits, so they don't freeze.

This form of protest is called a paddle out. It has a long tradition in Australia and the United States, two countries with strong surf culture.

In recent months, surfers have arranged a number of such protests several places in the world, but this is the first in front of the opera.
Saturday there was a smaller event in Stavanger.

“For me, the planned oil exploration is perceived as madness from both a brand and an economic point of view, as Equinor, as all others, must be more quickly transformed from fossil to renewable energy. And it is an insult to all of us who are illuminating action in terms of climate change and in terms of commitments we must face in the Paris treaty,” Pleym said.

In Australia, the protests have been going on for a long time, even before Equinor took over the exploration licences two years ago.

According to the environmental organisation The Wilderness Society, over 50.000 people participated in demonstrations throughout Australia in recent weeks.

Seventeen City Councils along the south coast have adopted that they are opposed, according to the Great Australian Bight Alliance.

Jess Lerch, the leader of The Wilderness Society, is in Norway to attend Equinor’s general meeting in the coming week.

“It makes me humble to see all the commitment here in Norway as well, and it’s amazing to be here. I am looking forward to coming back to Australia and telling about the commitment up here,” Lerch said.

– How likely do you think it is that Equinor will give in to the pressure?

“I think the question is when and how. The Australian people are not going to let this go on. The question is just how much pressure is going to be needed and how long it’s going to take,” Lerch said.

Source: Aftenposten, Norway
En kjendismilliardær, en dronning og en samlet surfeelite er blant dem som protesterer mot norsk oljeboring i Australia: – Den planlagte oljeletingen oppleves som galskap.

Søndag samlet surfere og miljøaktivister seg for en svært utradisjonell protest i norsk sammenheng. Det er et sjeldent syn så dypt inne i Oslofjorden.

– Oppmøtet her sier noe om den voksende motstanden også her i Norge, sier leder i Greenpeace Norge, Frode Pleym.

Protesten er mot Equinor, det statsdominerte oljeselskapet som planlegger å lete etter olje i Australbukta, havområdet rett sør for Australia.

Equinor er blitt møtt med store protester både lokalt og internasjonalt, som mener at det naturskjønne området er for sårbart for oljeleting.

«Padler ut» mot Equinor

Først klasker surfebrettene forsiktig ut i Oslofjorden. Så kaster surferne seg etter, en etter en, i det iskalde vannet. Men solen skinner, og surferne har tykke våtdrakter, så de fryser ikke.

Denne protestformen kalles en «paddle out». Det har en lang tradisjon i Australia og USA, to land med sterk surfekultur.

De siste månedene har surfere arrangert en rekke slike protester flere steder i verden, men dette er den første foran Operaen.

Lørdag var det en mindre markering i Stavanger.

– For meg oppleves den planlagte oljeletingen som galskap fra både et merkevare- og et økonomisk synspunkt, ettersom Equinor som alle andre raskere må omstille fra fossilt til fornybar energi.
Og det er en fornærmelse mot alle oss som etterlyser handling når det gjelder klimaendringene og med tanke på forpliktelsene vi må møte i Parisavtalen, sier Pleym.

I Australia har protestene pågått i lang tid, også før Equinor «tok over» letelisensene for to år siden. Ifølge miljøorganisasjonen

The Wilderness Society har over 50.000 personer deltatt i demonstrasjoner over hele Australia de siste ukene.
17 bystyrer langs sørkysten har vedtatt at de er imot, ifølge organisasjonen Great Australian Bight Alliance.

Jess Lerch, lederen i The Wilderness Society er i Norge for å delta på Equinors generalforsamling den kommende uken.

– Det gjør meg ydmyk å se alt engasjementet her i Norge også, og det er utrolig å være her. Jeg gleder meg til å komme tilbake til Australia og fortelle om engasjementet her oppe, sier Lerch.

– Hvor sannsynlig tror du det er at Equinor kommer til å gi etter for presset?

– Jeg tror spørsmålet er når og hvordan. Det australske folket kommer ikke til å la dette fortsette. Spørsmålet er bare hvor mye som skal til og hvor lang tid det kommer til å ta, sier Lerch.

Full story here

Photo: Siri Øverland Eriksen  The paddle out near the Opera House, Oslo

Photo: Siri Øverland Eriksen
The paddle out near the Opera House, Oslo

Surfers show solidarity against Equinor's plans to drill Great Australian Bight

Protesters at Kiama Harbour. Picture: Andy Gray.

Protesters at Kiama Harbour. Picture: Andy Gray.

Source: Kiama Independent
Surfers of all ages conducted a peaceful protest at Kiama Harbour before paddling out to show solidarity as they joined a nationwide campaign against drilling for oil in the Great Australian Bight.

About 100 protesters, including organisers Rusty Moran and Chris Homer of the Surfrider Foundation and Gilmore Greens candidate Carmel McCallum, got together to protest against Norwegian oil company Equinor and its plans to exploratory drill off the southern coastline of mainland Australia.

Surfrider Foundation South Coast Branch delegate Rusty Moran spoke to the group, outlining the risks drilling poses to the Bight. The company's proposed Stromlo-1 well would be located 372km off the coast of South Australia and 476km west of Port Lincoln.

"If we weigh it up on balance, here's the upside - they're potentially going to drill for 40 years and create 1500 jobs," he said.

"But, the downside is, if they have a spill which is pretty damn likely over 40 years, it will be the same sort of magnitude of the gulf of Mexico spill which BP caused in 2010.
Full story here

International leaders raise their voices against Great Australian Bight oil drilling

Source: The New Daily
An independent group of global leaders, who call themselves ‘Ocean Elders’, has written a letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten calling on them to intervene and stop the drilling from going ahead.

“If we are to meet the Paris Climate Accord to limit global warming to less than 1.5 degrees, it is essential that we do not open up new fossil fuel reserves, let alone in extremely dangerous and high conservation value environments such as the Bight,” the letter reads.

“Due to the depth and roughness of the seas in the Bight, and the absence of knowledge about pressure and temperature beneath the sea-bed, the likelihood of an accident is higher than in existing oil basins.”

The letter has been signed by Nobel Laureates and high-profile leaders including the Prince of Monaco Albert II, Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson and United Nations Messenger of Peace and renowned anthropologist Dame Jane Goodall.

The group wants a permanent ban on oil exploration in the Great Australian Bight, which is home to more than 30 species of whales and dolphins and more unique biodiversity than the Great Barrier Reef.

Full story here

Elliston residents involved in Great Australian Bight symposium in Sydney

Source: West Coast Sentinel
Elliston residents Ian and Jay Dudley have returned from a symposium about oil extraction in the southern ocean at the University of Sydney, where panelists have lent expertise to discussions about drilling in the Great Australian Bight.

The April 23 event was hosted by the Sydney Environment Institute where the pair participated as panelists.

"Both my wife and I participated as community members from the region and conveyed some of the concerns and questions many people along our shores have with the idea," Mr Dudley said.

He said his wife initially attended to support him, but due to her experience in Fight for the Bight campaigns in Elliston, was able to engage with the panel members too.

"It was good to have two people with local knowledge there and experience instead of just one," he said.

Other panelists included world experts in engineering, constitutional law, marine science, and the global petroleum and gas industry, including a few people who had worked extensively for BP and Shell during their careers.

"All of them were of the opinion that as it currently stands, from a regulatory, legislative and financial point of view, even before we consider environmental issues, the proposed industrialisation of the Great Australian Bight presents a massive risk to our region and to the nation as a whole," Mr Dudley said.

Full story here

Protests against oil drilling in the Great Australian Bight continue

Source: The Victor Harbor Times

Photos from the Hands in the Sand Middleton event courtesy of Lindy Davies, Lea Brooks, Marc Wilson and Rose Fletcher.

Photos from the Hands in the Sand Middleton event courtesy of Lindy Davies, Lea Brooks, Marc Wilson and Rose Fletcher.

Over the weekend, thousands attended yet another nationwide protest against deep-sea oil drilling in the Great Australian Bight, with 'Hands Across the Sand' events being held across the State, including at Middleton, Port Willunga, Brighton and on Kangaroo Island.

A crowd of around three hundred showed out at Middleton Point last Sunday for the 'Hands Across the Sand' event which was opened by Major Moogy Sumner, respected local Ngarrindjeri elder, who led the crowd in a welcome to country, and later in a chant.

City of Victor Harbor Mayor Moira Jenkins and Alexandrina Mayor Keith Parkes were both in attendance and spoke at the event, discussing their shared opposition to oil exploration and drilling in the Great Australian Bight.

Alexandrina and Victor Harbor councils represent two of the 15 councils in South Australia and Victoria who have now passed motions opposing oil drilling by Norwegian oil giant Equinor, of which the Norwegian government holds a majority stake.

Mayor Jenkins said the Victor Harbor Council remained opposed to oil drilling in the Bight.

"As we are just about to launch this year's whale season, we are reminded of the beauty and fragility of our oceans and the marine species that call the Great Australian Bight home," she said. "As a community, the impact of any oil spill on our agribusiness, tourist industry, and our coastal communities would be devastating.

"We live on the boarder of a marine park and need to preserve our fragile ecosystem not carry out activities that threaten its viability for generations to come."

Full Story and pictures here

Labor to review Bight oil spill potential

Source: The Standard (Warrnambool)

Bill Shorten says an incoming federal Labor government would commission a study into the consequences of a future oil spill in the Great Australian Bight.

Norwegian energy giant Equinor says the Bight "could be one of Australia's largest untapped oil reserves" and wants to drill a well more than 370 kilometres off the coast of South Australia.

Drilling of the proposed Stromlo-1 well will begin in the summer of 2020/21 if it receives all necessary regulatory approval.

Beach protests have been held around the country condemning the project, including in the NSW south coast seat of Gilmore where the Labor leader campaigned on Wednesday.

"If I form a government, one of my first decisions will be to get an oil spill study," Mr Shorten said.

"I want to understand the consequences of an oil spill in the Bight ... and I think that that is what is concerning a lot of our surfers and people who care about our coastline."

Equinor has submitted an environmental draft plan to the regulator for offshore petroleum safety.

Full story here

Local group joins demonstration

Source: West Coast Sentinel

Locals and visitors gathered at Point Sinclair over the weekend for a 'Hands Across the Sand' demonstration to oppose Equinor's planned oil exploration activities in the Great Australian Bight.

The event has been running for many years at coastal locations throughout the country and this year's events have attracted thousands of people nationwide.

Point Sinclair's fun-filled community saw more than 60 people of all ages and backgrounds display banners and voice their concerns about the impacts of seismic activities on local fauna and of the potential consequences modelled by Equinor should there be a mishap during the proposed drilling program.

NO TO DRILLING: Susannah Jones and Chris Bampton made their feelings clear at the 'Hands Across the Sand' event at Point Sinclair. Pictures: Supplied

NO TO DRILLING: Susannah Jones and Chris Bampton made their feelings clear at the 'Hands Across the Sand' event at Point Sinclair. Pictures: Supplied

"The economics don't stack up," local Chris Bampton said.

"People only have to look at 'mining boom' towns across Australia to see that any supposed economic benefit to the region is short lived and invariably damaging in the long term, [and] what are we going to be left with if something does go wrong?

Full story +pictures here

Hands across the Sand 2019 on KI | PHOTOS

Source: The (KI) Islander

Residents concerned about a disastrous oil spill on Kangaroo Island shoreline attended the 2019 Hands across the Sand event at Emu Bay on Sunday, May 5.

SOS KI: Participants at the Hands across the Sand protest action at Emu  Bay on Sunday spelled out Save our Seas with their bodies. Drone  photography by Greame Ricketts.

SOS KI: Participants at the Hands across the Sand protest action at Emu Bay on Sunday spelled out Save our Seas with their bodies. Drone photography by Greame Ricketts.

Almost 90 people gathered on the beach at Emu Bay standing in a line linking hands, before spelling out SOS for Save Our Seas.

Down on the Island's southern shores at Vivonne Bay, about 20 members of the Island Board Riders also formed a line in the sand.

Norwegian oil company Equinor has now submitted its plan for a test well 500 km west of Kangaroo Island.

Full story (+ photos) here

Port Fairy Hands across the Sand event to protest drilling in the Great Australian Bight draws hundreds to beach

Source: The Standard

Over 100 people gathered on South Beach in Port Fairy for the Hands in the Sand protest. Picture: Christine Ansorge

Over 100 people gathered on South Beach in Port Fairy for the Hands in the Sand protest. Picture: Christine Ansorge

People power has been unleashed in Port Fairy to protest the plan by Norwegian energy company Equinor to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight.

Over 350 people joined the 'Hands across the Sand' event on South Beach in a show of solidarity against the energy giant's exploration proposal.

Event organiser Ben Druitt said he was happy with the attendance given the number of Fight for the Bight events that had been held recently.

"The Fight for the Bight issue has been big all around the country," Mr Druitt said.

"Hopefully this becomes a serious issue for the election."

Full story here

2019 Hands Across the Sand campaign on Town Beach, Port Macquarie

Source: Port Macquarie News
HASTINGS campaigners for a cleaner future came together on Town Beach on May 4 to send a message to federal candidates that time for action on the environment is now.

They stood in silent solidarity on Town Beach as a part of the global Hands Across the Sand movement to steer energy policy away from the dependence on fossil fuels.

Co-organiser Meegan Stephens said it was an opportunity to draw a line in the sand and say no to fossil fuels, demanding the attention of politicians to embrace cleaner energy options and renewables.

"A lot more people across Australia are engaged on this matter," Ms Stephens said on the issue of climate change being a matter of priority at the looming federal election on May 18.

"This is about sending a clear message to the world that we care about our environment."

Full story here

Surfers Fight to Block Oil Drilling in the Great Australian Bight

Source: The New York Times

Surfers paddling out through the breakers at Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia, on Sunday in protest against oil and gas drilling in the Great Australian Bight. Credit: Anna Maria Antoinette D’Addario for The New York Times

Surfers paddling out through the breakers at Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia, on Sunday in protest against oil and gas drilling in the Great Australian Bight.
Credit: Anna Maria Antoinette D’Addario for The New York Times

SYDNEY, Australia — The “paddle out” is surfing’s most hallowed ritual, a floating memorial ceremony in which mourners join hands and reminisce at sea.

On Sunday, surfers paddled out from Australia’s most famous beach, but this time it was not to remember one of their own. Instead, they were calling attention to a stretch of rich, pristine ocean that they say faces a mortal threat from a plan to open it to natural gas and oil drilling.

The gathering, on Bondi Beach in Sydney, was part of a series of protests that have gathered force in recent weeks across Australia in an effort to protect the Great Australian Bight, a haven for some of the world’s most unusual marine life.

The proposal by the Norwegian company Equinor to drill in the waters off Australia’s southern coast has galvanized surfers, including generations of the sport’s most famous professionals here. Surfing holds great economic, social and cultural significance in Australia, which has some of the world’s most beautiful, unspoiled coastlines.

“Today is the day we draw a line in the sand,” said Damien Cole, a surfer who led the paddle out from Bondi’s shore. “We’re in the midst of a climate emergency, and here’s a company working with our federal government to go into one of the most remote and pristine ecosystems, risking everything.”

As federal elections approach on May 18, the Equinor proposal is becoming a test of whether Australia is more committed to extraction of natural resources or protection of unspoiled ecosystems, with beaches as a political forum.

Jacqueline Williams

Full story at The New York Times

Coastal campaigners look to ride big wave of worry over gas, oil plans

Source: The Age

As massive waves and the world’s best surfers descended on Bells Beach this week, Damien Cole seized the chance to draw attention to his cause.

The Surfrider Foundation ambassador and independent candidate for the coastal Corangamite electorate is on a mission to fight plans to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight.

He harnessed attention on the Rip Curl Pro surfing contest and recruited professional surfers, including John John Florence and Owen Wright to his environmental fight.

Australia’s best-known surfing contest and the federal election was a perfect storm for Mr Cole who has organised protests, most recently in Torquay, against the drilling proposal.

“It’s come at a time during this election campaign where our communities are worried. For them this is definitely a huge issue. It could really affect our way of life, our coast, our communities,” he told The Age.

Victorians know the state is gripped by drought and many are calling for stronger action on climate change.

'If you're not going to represent us, we're not going to elect you.' As the message of surfers defending the Great Australian Bight is clear, Independent candidate for Corangamite Damien Cole saw an opportunity.

But it is the health of the coastline that is also exercising voters’ minds in key seaside electorates.

Mr Cole insists his Surfrider ambassadorial role is apolitical and separate from his campaign to win the ultra-marginal and Liberal-held Corangamite electorate, which lies south-west of Melbourne.

But his campaign against oil wells in the bight has made a big splash, forcing his political opponents to take notice.

Corangamite MP Sarah Henderson is also trying to ride the wave of community anger over the bight drilling plans.

Last weekend she donned a wetsuit and joined surfers at the Torquay protest, even though her appearance pits her against government colleagues who support oil exploration.

Ms Henderson, who is defending her seat on a paper-thin 0.03 per cent margin, insists she is committed to coastal preservation but clearly regarded her attendance at the protest as crucial to holding her seat.

“Our natural environment including our pristine oceans is something Sarah will always stand for and always fight for,” her spokeswoman says.

Labor’s Corangamite candidate Libby Coker stresses she is committed to coastal protection although she did not accept an invitation to attend the Torquay protest.

Andrew Cherubin, president of Torquay residents group 3228, says Corangamite voters fear a repeat of the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico nine years ago.

“The new younger generation can see what’s going on and they can see that it’s their future and they’re scared,” he says.

Full story: “Coastal campaigners look to ride big wave of worry over gas, oil plans”, The Age, 26 April

Equinor slammed again in Australia

Source: newsinenglish.no

Norway’s state oil company Equinor is being accused of making a “sham” out of the public feedback process over its highly controversial oil drilling plans in the rough and deep seas off Australia’s southern coast. It only responded to 13 of around 32,000 public comments in its draft plan for the Great Australian Bight, and is pushing ahead with its drilling project despite loud public resistance.

Norway’s state oil company Equinor, until recently known as Statoil, continues to upset many Australians and fully 17 town councils over its plans to drill for oil in The Great Australian Bight. The Bight is a protected marine area off Australia’s southern coast, which also seems to put the Norwegian company’s plans on a collision course with the Norwegian government’s international campaign to save the world’s seas. PHOTO: Wikipedia

Norway’s state oil company Equinor, until recently known as Statoil, continues to upset many Australians and fully 17 town councils over its plans to drill for oil in The Great Australian Bight. The Bight is a protected marine area off Australia’s southern coast, which also seems to put the Norwegian company’s plans on a collision course with the Norwegian government’s international campaign to save the world’s seas. PHOTO: Wikipedia

Norway’s state oil company Equinor, until recently known as Statoil, continues to upset many Australians and fully 17 town councils over its plans to drill for oil in The Great Australian Bight. The Bight is a protected marine area off Australia’s southern coast, which also seems to put the Norwegian company’s plans on a collision course with the Norwegian government’s international campaign to save the world’s seas. PHOTO: Wikipedia

“Norwegian oil giant Equinor could not be more contemptuous of the Australian people,” claims Peter Owen, director of the Wilderness Society (for) for South Australia. “Equinor lodged its Environment Plan on the last day it could to avoid a government-regulated public feedback process. Instead it ran its own sham feedback process and has dismissed almost all concerns in 30,000 unique submissions in just five weeks.”

Equinor acknowledges there were actually around 32,000 submissions. Enviromental activists have also mounted more than 10,000 demonstrations from Western Australia to Queensland in the east just in the past month. They claim that only 20 percent of Australians support offshore oil drilling, while two-thirds of Australians want the waters of the Bight to be listed as a UN World Heritage site.

Those protesting Equinor’s exploration plans in the Bight seem most upset that the Stavanger- and Oslo-based company, which changed its name from Statoil last year, had publicly promised that it would “not push through resistance” to its plans. They now view Equinor as pushing through indeed, contending that the company is all but ignoring what Owen calls “one of the biggest environmental protests Australia has ever seen.”

Equinor downplays the protests
Equinor officials defend their public hearing and comment process, which ran from February 20 to March 20. “We received a lot of comments, around 32,000,” acknowledged Jone Strangeland, who leads Equinor’s operations in Australia, to newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) on Thursday. “That sounds like a lot, but if you look at other projects in Australia, it’s not unusually large.”

Strangeland told DN that after going through all the comments, Equinor determined that around 1,000 were “relevant.” He noted that “there was a lot of sharing of photos and abusive language. There were slogans like ‘Equinor out of Australia,’ and ‘Stop oil and gas,’ and some of the comments could have come from the same people several times.”

He and his colleagues therefore dismissed such “abuse.” Of the roughly 1,000 comments deemed “relevant,” many were determined to already have been addressed. The company thus decided that only 13 “concrete changes” to Equinor’s environmental impact statement for its planned drilling in the Bight were needed.

Insists Equinor ‘is listening’
Camilla Aamodt, in charge of oil and gas exploration for Equinor off both Australia and New Zealand, has earlier denied Equinor is “pressing itself” upon the Australian people or that its request for public feedback was a sham. She wrote in a commentary published in Oslo newspaper Dagsavisen earlier this month that “we have been traveling around South Australia and listening to those who live there.” Equinor hosted public meetings, she wrote, “to offer correct information,” and she and her colleagues learned “there are various points of view out there, also supporting our project. Many hope for more jobs and more activity in the area, and we have presented an environmental plan of high quality, just as the Australian authorities and local regulations demand of us.”

Aamodt was reacting in her column to an earlier editorial in Dagsavisen that suggested it was “embarrassing to be a Norwegian in Australia” right now. “Most of us have enough antennae to know when we’re not wanted,” wrote debate editor Bente R Gravklev in Dagsavisen. “Even if we think we have something to offer, we understand the signals and leave.” The former Statoil, she noted, appeared humble when it first picked up signs of oil in the Bight, with the company claiming they’d only drill if that was wanted. “Maybe it’s the scent of oil that’s triggered greed, or numbed senses enough that now (Equinor) is defying the negative signals and sticking around. Or maybe the humility was an act.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund * Full story here