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News stories

Investors ally with green groups over Bight oil drilling

Source: Australian Financial Review

Controversial frontier exploration planned far off the South Australian coast looks certain to come under even closer scrutiny after the Norwegian oil and gas producer leading the drilling lodged a formal submission for approval just as it beefed up its commitment to align with Paris climate goals.

After engaging with Climate Action 100+, the pressure group of investors that prompted Glencore to commit in February to capping its coal production, Equinor agreed to "stress test" its portfolio against the goals of the Paris accord, including new material capex investments, and to explain how exploration is handled in that context.

The company, known as Statoil until 2018, also pledged to review membership of industry associations to ensure its participation doesn't undermine its support for emissions reductions to limit global warming. The review is understood to include the Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association.

The pledges came just as Equinor has applied to Australia's National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority for approval to drill the Stromlo-1 exploration well in the Great Australian Bight, an exploit expected to cost more than $100 million that is strongly opposed by environmental groups. Equinor has pursued the project even after former partner BP walked away.

Equinor's 1500-page draft environment plan for the drilling, due to take place by April 2021, attracted more than 31,000 submissions, mostly in opposition. Iron ore billionaire Andrew Forrest is among opponents, as are surfing champions Stephanie Gilmore and Mick Fanning.

The Stromlo-1 well will be drilled 400 kilometres off South Australia at a cost expected to top $100 million. It will target a large oil find that could help arrest Australia's declining self-sufficiency in oil but the plan has raised fears about widespread pollution along the southern coast in the case of a spill.

Equinor's strengthened commitments on climate change are now drawing more attention to the plan from global investors, in addition to environmental groups.

Anne Simpson, a member of the Climate Action 100+ global steering committee and the director of board governance and strategy at huge US pension fund CalPERS,  said the fund looks forward "to Equinor setting out their plans for addressing its impact on regional sites to ensure protection of ecologically sensitive areas such as those in Australia".

See the Full article by Angela Macdonald-Smith, AFR Senior Resources Writer

Lib MP joins protest against oil drilling in Great Australian Bight, defying colleagues

Source: The Age

Liberal MP Sarah Henderson, who is defending her ultra-marginal Victorian seat, has defied her government colleagues over controversial plans to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight.

The Corangamite MP joined protesters at the weekend who were calling for an end to the proposed drilling project in South Australian waters.

Surfers attend the 'Fight for the Bight' protest in Torquay. Credit:Adam Snow

With the drilling plans emerging as a major national environmental flashpoint, Ms Henderson has placed herself firmly at odds with her own colleagues who are keen to see exploration for oil proceed in the Great Australian Bight.

The MP, whose Corangamite electorate sits on a paper-thin margin of just 0.03 per cent, was among a crowd organisers estimated as being in the thousands who gathered on Saturday on the beach at Torquay in her electorate south-west of Melbourne.

Ms Henderson’s spokeswoman said she was invited to attend the protest by the Surfrider Foundation.

“She shares her local community’s concerns about the project. Our natural environment including our pristine oceans is something Sarah will always stand for and always fight for,” the spokeswoman said.

Liberal MP Sarah Henderson in her electorate in March this year.Credit:Luis Enrique Ascui

Several attendees confirmed seeing Ms Henderson at the rally, although she did not address the crowd.

Her office confirmed there was no official government position on the project and the minister responsible does not have discretion to overrule the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority.

Less than a month from the federal election, Ms Henderson’s apparent opposition to the oil drilling project puts her at odds with Resources Minister Matt Canavan who has previously said offshore oil exploration should be encouraged in the bight.

Mr Canavan’s office confirmed he still supports the current process for oil exploration in the bight. He has previously dismissed opponents of the oil drilling project.

Full article by Benjamin Preiss in The Age

Drilling The Bight Could Have Devastating Environment Impacts

 Source: The Project
Norwegian Energy company Equinor wants to drill for oil and gas in the middle of the Great Australian Bight. Its set up a growing fight between the drilling giant on one side, and surfers, environmentalists and fishermen. 

Local action at Byron Bay

Digby Moran, Bundjalung artist and Michael Legge-Wilkinson are raising money for the Fight for the Bight campaign. Photo supplied.

Digby Moran, Bundjalung artist and Michael Legge-Wilkinson are raising money for the Fight for the Bight campaign. Photo supplied.

Taking action locally are some of Australia’s best surf artists, including Michael Legge-Wilkinson, Bundjalung artist Digby Moran, Otis Cary, Ozzie Wright, and Annabelle Thomas, are are coming together to exhibit in support of Fight for the Bight. ‘Being surfers as well as artists, we have an intimate relationship with the ocean and will do everything in our power to stop Equinor or anyone else drilling for oil in the Great Australian Bight and putting our great southern ocean, beaches and waves at risk,’ said Michael Legge-Wilkinson.

The exhibition opens this Friday April 5 at the Kokomo Gallery, 121 Jonson Street, Byron Bay. Doors open at 5pm with Welcome to Country at 8pm. The exhibition will run for two weeks.

Warrnambool City council has voted to support the 'Fight the Bight' campaign

Source: The Standard (Warrnambool)

Warrnambool City council has voted to support the 'Fight the Bight' campaign and condemn oil and gas drilling.

Councillors voted unanimously at Monday's meeting to support David Owen's notice of motion against exploration in the Great Australian Bight

Cr Owen said the council was the 16th Australian and the fourth Victorian council, joining Moyne and Corangamite shires, to lodge its opposition.

Norwegian company Equinor has an exploratory drilling permit for the Great Australian Bight, but has not commenced work.

Cr Owen said the council could not allow the bight to be put at risk by an accident such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that discharged five million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

Rachael Houlihan, April 2, 5pm

"The impacts would devastate marine life, fisheries and coastal communities and would seriously tarnish the pristine image of the Australian Southern Ocean and beaches," he said.

Equinor takes on board more than 30,000 entries

Source: Port Lincoln Times
Equinor is in the process of updating its Environmental Plan for its proposed exploration drilling program in the Great Australian Bight after receiving thousands of public responses.

The company put the draft plan for its Stromlo-1 exploration well out for public comment for 30 days, which allowed people to provide input and highlight areas of improvement.

The public comment period closed on March 20 with Equinor receiving more than 30,000 entries.

Twiggy Forrest opposes drilling in the Bight

Source: The KI Islander
WA mining magnate and Kangaroo Island land owner Andrew "Twiggy" Forrest is opposing plans by Norwegian oil company Equinor to drill an exploration well in the Great Australian Bight.

Mr Forrest's Minderoo Foundation released a statement last week listing its concerns about oil exploration in the Bight.

Drilling for oil in the Great Australian Bight presents an unacceptable risk to an irreplaceable ecosystem, according to Minderoo Foundation's Flourishing Oceans initiative.

Flourishing Oceans chief executive Brigitte Smith said the Great Australian Bight was a globally significant marine reserve set aside to protect important marine species, many of which are only found in these waters.

Due to the significance of this environment, proposed exploration drilling in the Bight should not go ahead, she said.

"The Great Australian Bight is a pristine marine park home to unique and sensitive marine ecosystems," Ms Smith said.

"For example, the Bight contains the majority of the endemic and threatened Australian sea lion population and is the primary calving ground for Southern Right whales."

More than 100 KI residents attended an action on the beach at Vivonne Bay last weekend. See: 'Bight Back' beach action at Kangaroo Island

The big issue surfers are taking a stand against

Source: News.com

When professionals like Mick Fanning speak up, people take notice.

But in this case he didn’t really have to — thousands of people have filled beaches and oceans across the country in recent weeks of their own accord, fighting a plan that affects not only an Australian icon but our whole coastline.

They’re protesting Norwegian energy company Equinor’s plans to drill for oil in a protected marine park within the Great Australian Bight.

Paddle-out protests have been happening at beaches across the country, from Torquay in Victoria to Burleigh Heads on the Gold Coast and Newcastle in New South Wales.

Another is planned for St Kilda this Sunday, and more are planned for Adelaide, Perth, Hobart, and Sydney in coming weeks.

Storer seeks two-step drilling review

Source: Port Lincoln Times

Independent Senator Tim Storer visited Port Lincoln on Wednesday to garner support from locals for his bill that would introduce a compulsory higher level of consideration for drilling proposals in the Great Australian Bight. 

Mr Storer said as an independent senator, he cannot bring the bill to the floor for debate, and was now seeking support from the opposition to bring it forward for a potential vote into legislation. 

"The nature of the proposal is to drill 2,250 metres deep," he said. 

"Therefore I welcome the NOPSEMA technical expertise, but I thought there should be a two stage process....looking at serious or irreversible environment damage, community concerns, and ecological sustainable development."

Mr Storer said these aspects were covered in the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, but doesn't apply for the decision on drilling, which his amendment bill looks to rectify. 

"An idea I had for legislation was for a higher level of consideration, which already exists under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Act....but doesn't apply for these decisions," he said. 

The bill would retain the initial NOPSEMA review, but if NOPSEMA approves an action in the Bight, then the act's second review process would "kick-in".

Unite the Bight campaign brings award-winning film to Victor Harbor

Source: Victor Harbor Times

South Coast environmentalists have taken great strides in protecting the Great Australian Bight (GAB) from oil drilling in the past year, forcing the exits of oil giants BP and Chevron – but the fight is not over yet.

Read the full article in The Times here

Port Lincoln shows support for Unite the Bight

Source: Port Lincoln Times

The Great Australian Bight Alliance has received plenty of support from the Port Lincoln community as it plans to get its message across on the steps of Parliament House later this month.

More than 300 people attended a free music festival at Beer Garden Brewing on Sunday, one of a series of Unite the Bight events held at coastal communities across the state.

Read the full Port Lincoln Times article here

Port Lincoln Unite the Bight.jpg