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BP downplayed the risks of an oil spill in the Great Australian Bight, and even suggested that cleanup efforts—in case of such a spill—would be a “welcome boost” to the local coastal economies, correspondence between the supermajor and Australia’s environmental regulator NOPSEMA has revealed.
BP quit the Great Australian Bight last year, passing the torch to Statoil. But now letters released under freedom of information legislation provide details about the company’s environmental plans for the region and are bound to spark outrage among environmentalists.
First published in Climate Change News, the letters suggest that BP had failed to properly address the extent of potential environmental damage in case of a spill and the impact on local marine fauna of drilling activities.
For example, Climate Change News writes, oil spill modeling submitted by BP to NOPSEMA two years ago had shown an oil spill could reach as far as New South Wales, polluting 650 to 750 km of coastline in a period of between 125 and 300 days. The watchdog questioned BP’s ability to gather the manpower and equipment needed for the cleanup of such a large area of coast, and it also asked the company to remove the “welcome boost” statement from its environmental plan.
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All in all, the letters show that BP’s revised environmental plan for the Bight, submitted after NOPSEMA rejected its original one in 2015, fell short of requirements on 69 out of 88 criteria for approval. BP said that these letters reflect ongoing work by the company and the regulator to come to an agreement on BP’s preparedness to handle any undesirable events in the Bight.
When BP quit its drilling project in the Bight, it said it was doing so because of unfavorable economic conditions. Environmental activists agree: one former politician from the Australian Greens party told Climate Change News that taking care to minimize risks for the sensitive ecosystem on the Great Bight from the effects of oil and gas drilling would be “prohibitively expensive” for any company.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.