Namely, it was on Wednesday, December 18 when NOPSEMA conditionally approved Equinor’s controversial ultra-deepwater Stromlo-1 exploration well proposed for the Bight.
Despite constant criticism, Equinor refused to formally consult the Wilderness Society South Australia or other environment groups, on its plans. What is more, Wilderness Society South Australia further add that Equinor also refused to formally consult key Indigenous groups and local governments; such omissions are key to the organization’s legal challenge.
Wilderness Society South Australian Director, Peter Owen commented on the topic, saying that
To be clear, this is not a step we wanted to have to take. We have engaged diligently and constructively via consultation with other fossil fuel companies seeking approvals in the Bight, including BP. We have engaged diligently and constructively with NOPSEMA. We have consistently requested that Equinor consults with us as an affected and relevant party.
Mr Owen added that it “clear that Equinor has refused to undertake best practice consultation, and it is our view that it didn’t even meet the basic regulatory requirements. Our view is that NOPSEMA made an important legal error in accepting Equinor’s substandard consultation.”
On their part, Bunna Lawrie, an elder of the Mirning people, Traditional Owners of the Bight highlighted that
We don’t want Equinor to put our sea and our place of the whales at risk. We don’t want pollution causing destruction and poisoning our sea and land.
What is more, City of Holdfast Bay Mayor Amanda Wilson stressed that "Glenelg is South Australia’s premier beachside tourism destination, with visitors contributing $274m to the State’s economy annually and employing 1766 people. Our 11km of pristine white sandy beaches in Holdfast Bay are a major drawcard for visitors and our local community and it’s our duty to protect them," adding that
The vast majority of Australians don’t want oil drilling in the Great Australian Bight, and the Fight for the Bight is one of the biggest environmental protests Australia has seen. Tens of thousands of people have protested against Equinor’s Bight plans all around Australia and even in Norway, and on a single day in November there were over 50 paddle-out protests at beaches across the country.
Recently, on 18 September 2019, Equinor provided the requested further information regarding the environment plan for their proposed exploration drilling activity in the Great Australian Bight. According to Environment Regulations, the Australian offshore regulator, NOPSEMA has resumed its assessment of Equinor’s environment plan.
On 8 November 2019, Australian NOPSEMA issued a notice to Equinor requiring them to modify and resubmit their environment plan for proposed drilling in the Great Australian Bight.
Equinor had then to provide NOPSEMA with additional information about matters regarding consultation, source control, oil spill risk, and matters protected under Part 3 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.