No new oil rigs in Australia’s whale nursery. At least, not yet.
A government regulator has put the kibosh on BP’s plans to drill in the Great Australian Bight. At least, for a while that is.
But wait. Back up. What the heck is a bight?
The Great Australian Bight is this huge open bay off the southern coast of Australia. Lots of cliffs around it. Looks like this:
The oil giant wanted to put in four new exploratory wells here a little way off the coast. But their plan to protect the Bight against any ecological damage wasn’t up to snuff, the government regulator said:
“After a thorough and rigorous assessment, NOPSEMA [the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority] has determined that the environment plan does not yet meet the criteria for acceptance under the environment regulations, and has advised BP of this decision.”
You know that sinking feeling you get when you see “environment” and “BP” in the same sentence? Yeah, they had it too.
“After its Gulf of Mexico disaster, you would think BP would be at pains to demonstrate that it is going well above and beyond regulatory requirements to ensure its safety and environmental plans are the new standard of global best practice,” said Wilderness Society South Australia director Peter Owen.
BP was, of course, the oil company responsible for the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010 that released 200 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. It was the worst marine oil spill ever, sledgehammering the Gulf’s fishing and tourism industry.
“It is very concerning that BP doesn’t appear to be taking the potential risks drilling in our pristine oceans presents seriously at all,” Owen continued.
Everyone raise their hands if they like non-oil-covered animals!
The Bight is an important sanctuary for many species. Whales live there — humpback whales, blue whales — it’s even where many southern right whales come to give birth and raise their young. That’s not to mention it’s the home of sea lions, fish, seabirds, and countless other species.
And, oh yeah, humans live there too. For them, the coast brings in $442 million per year in fishing money and $1.2 billion in tourism.
BP may return. But we might be able to stop them.
According to NOPSEMA guidelines, BP now has the chance to edit and resubmit their plans. This is a crucial moment.
The Wilderness Society is calling for more donations to help them keep up their opposition. So far they’ve done some research and modeling and gathered signatures for a petition, but they’ve got more work ahead of them.
“It was only five years ago that BP caused one of the worst oil spills in history in the Gulf of Mexico,” they said. “We won’t let BP do the same to Australia.”