Researchers Call For Equinor’s Environmental Audit To Be Made Public

In an open letter to the Minister for the Environment, Professor Tina Soliman-Hunter, Professor Andrew Hopkins, Dr Madeline Taylor and Greg Bourne call for the Chief Scientists’ Audit Report on Equinor’s Environmental Plan to be made publicly available.

Great Australian Bight, image via Shutterstock: 1339860548

In late April, the Sydney Environment Institute convened a group of experts from academia and industry to consider key issues around drilling in the Bight. Following on from the event, University of Sydney energy and natural resources law expert Dr Madeline Taylor, Emeritus Professor Andrew Hopkins (Australian National University), Greg Bourne (Australian Climate Council Council and former President of BP Australia), and Professor Tina Soliman-Hunter (Aberdeen University Centre for Energy Law) co-authored a pro-bono submission to the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA), which is currently assessing Norwegian oil company Equinor’s Environmental Plan to ensure it meets all legislative requirements to proceed with the proposed oil drilling in the Great Australian Bight.

In the submission, the experts demonstrated that Equinor’s “overconfidence” in its ability to prevent a major spill could lead to catastrophic environmental impacts. This week, in an open letter the working group calls for the Chief Scientists’s Audit Report on Equinor’s Environmental Plan for their proposed well, Stromlo-1, to be made publicly available.

“The proposed Stromlo-1 EP contains the proposition of extraordinary risk and regulatory complexity with the potential for high consequence unplanned events. Moreover, the GAB is a relatively pristine area of recognised threatened and protected biodiversity […] which, in turn, supports Australia’s biggest commercial fisheries and a significant and increasingly burgeoning tourism industry.

“It is concerning, […] that to date there has been no commitment to make the Chief Scientist’s audit report publicly available. Transparency allows key stakeholders to work with titleholders and regulators to ensure that risks are reduced.”

The letter, which is attached below, has been sent to Sussan Ley, Minister for the Environment, and Matthew Canavan, Minister for Resources and Northern Australia, as well as MP’s Terri Butler, Joel Fitzgibbon, Rebekha Sharkie, Senator Rex Patrick and Senator Sarah Hanson-Young.The authors also point out that current revisions to Equinor’s incomplete EP will mean that further investigation and auditing will be required to fully support NOPSEMA’s final assessment.

Download Letter