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Court bid to block Bight oil drilling

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The Wilderness Society has launched court action to try to block a plan to drill an oil exploration well in the Great Australian Bight.

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The environmental group has filed action in the Federal Court in Adelaide challenging the federal regulator’s decision to approve Norwegian energy company Equinor’s environmental plan to drill one exploration well about 400 kilometres off the South Australian coast.

SA Wilderness Society director Peter Owen says it will be argued that the approval from the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority is invalid because Equinor failed to properly consult with community and other groups.

“It is patently 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,” Owen said.

“NOPSEMA made an important legal error in accepting Equinor’s substandard consultation.”

The court action is supported by local councils along the SA coastline and indigenous groups.

Mirning elder Bunna Lawrie said Equinor had also failed to consult properly with the traditional owners of the Bight.

“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,” Lawrie said.

“I do not want my home, my tradition destroyed and lost forever.”

Equinor was first granted a petroleum title over areas in the Bight in 2011 and now has an accepted environment plan.

It must still have a well operations plan and a facility safety case approved before it can begin drilling its proposed Stromlo-1 well water more than 2.2km deep.

If approved, Equinor plans to begin work in late 2020 with the operations expected to last for 60 days.

Equinor said it had held more than 400 meetings with more than 200 organisations across Southern Australia during the consultation process and would continue to engage with stakeholders.

-AAP

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