Australia Must Follow US Offshore Oil Drilling Ban With Great Australian Bight


Australia must follow the lead of the United States’ offshore oil-drilling ban if it is to take its Paris climate commitments seriously, the Wilderness Society said today.
The Obama administration today announced a ban on oil and gas drilling in much of the Atlantic seaboard until at least 2022 in a move that strengthens global efforts to curtail climate pollution.

BP plans to start deep-sea exploration drilling in the Great Australian Bight as early as October, and other oil companies including Chevron, Santos, Murphy Oil and Bight Petroleum are queueing up behind them.

“This is a radical change from US President Barack Obama,” said Wilderness Society National Director Lyndon Schneiders. “It is a complete reversal of his previous plans to pursue oil and gas drilling the Atlantic Ocean following a similar reversal of plans in the Arctic. He has clearly made this decision as part of the US response to the Paris Climate Agreement and as an urgent action to curb climate pollution.

“If Australia is going to keep its commitment it made in Paris to try to keep global temperature rise to below 1.5 degrees Celsius, then we can not be opening up new fossil fuel precincts. We shouldn’t even be thinking of doing it in rough, remote, pristine waters.

“Our political leaders must be held accountable for Australia’s commitment to curb our climate pollution under the Paris Climate Agreement. Prime Minister Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten have to show leadership and rule out opening up the Great Australian Bight for oil development.”

“We have just heard the shocking news from NASA that the global temperature average for February has smashed all previous records. As a frightening demonstration of this in Australia, severe bleaching of parts of the Great Barrier Reef is underway due to surging ocean temperatures.”

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.

Independent modelling has shown 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 spill could impact all of southern Australia’s coast, from Western Australia right through to  Tasmania.

“BP should not even try to lodge another application to drill in the Bight until the Australian Senate’s Environment Committee reports back on the potential environmental, social and economic impacts of BP’s plans and any future oil or gas production in the Bight,” Mr Schneiders said.