Do you remember the Deepwater Horizon tragedy in 2010 when 800 million litres of oil spewed into the Gulf of Mexico, 11 people were killed and a fireball was ignited that could be seen 64 kilometres away? It was a tragedy for the people who died and their families as well as the environment and when District Judge Carl Barbier described the action of the companies responsible for the disaster he described BP as ‘reckless’ and Transocean’s and Halliburton’s as ‘negligent’.
The question is how deep is our need for oil and how short are our memories?
Currently the Norwegian oil giant Equinor is proposing plans to dill in the Great Australian Bight. The waters of the Bight are deep and rough and up until now this has protected them to some degree from exploitation ensuring that these waters are a pristine untouched ecosystem. Yet this is now under threat with the release of the draft application to drill in the Bight by Equinor.
Fight for the Bight
Opposition to the drilling has been swift with 28 surfing legends, including world champions Stephanie Gilmore and Mick Fanning, joining thousands of people protesting on beaches and ‘thousands and thousands’ of people joining paddle outs in protest to the drilling right across Australia said Wilderness Society South Australia Director Peter Owen.
During the month allowed for submissions over 30,000 people put forward their opposition to the proposed drilling.
‘The Fight for the Bight is now one of the biggest environmental protests Australia has ever seen and is gaining traction around the world. Equinor will be deeply shocked if it thinks the protests will disappear if it gets an approval. Australia’s biggest environmental protests, over the Adani coal mine, the Franklin Dam and the Tamar Valley pulp mill, have only escalated dramatically when approvals have been given,’ he said.
Opposition has continued as councils across Victoria and South Australia stand up to call out their ‘serious concern’ or ‘direct opposition’ to the proposal with the Warrnambool Council in Victoria and Mount Barker Council in South Australia recently calling out their concerns and opposition to the drilling.
‘Equinor’s modelling shows that an oil spill from an ultra-deepwater well blowout in the Great Australian Bight could impact anywhere along southern Australia’s coast, from Esperance WA across to north of Sydney and even Tasmania. Former Equinor Bight partner BP’s modelling showed a spill from its proposed Stromlo-1 well could hit Adelaide in 20 days and Port Lincoln and Kangaroo Island in 15 days,’ said Mr Owen.
‘Ultra-deepwater drilling is a relatively new, high-risk operation carried out mostly off the coast of Brazil and in the Gulf of Mexico, where it caused the world’s biggest oil spill accident, BP’s Deepwater Horizon tragedy in 2010, when 800 million litres of oil spewed into the gulf for 87 days.
More dangerous than drilling in the Gulf of Mexico
‘The Great Australian Bight waters are deeper, more treacherous and more remote than the Gulf of Mexico. There is no established offshore oil and gas industry in South Australia to deal with a disaster that could hit the Victorian coast. More than 6,800 boats were involved in the Gulf clean-up but the South Australian Oyster Growers Association says that SA and neighbouring states probably have only 20 vessels that could operate safely in the waters where Equinor plans to drill.’
Taking action locally are some of Australia’s best surf artists, including Michael Legge-Wilkinson, Bundjalung artist Digby Moran, Otis Cary, Ozzie Wright, and Annabelle Thomas, are are coming together to exhibit in support of Fight for the Bight.
‘Being surfers as well as artists, we have an intimate relationship with the ocean and will do everything in our power to stop Equinor or anyone else drilling for oil in the Great Australian Bight and putting our great southern ocean, beaches and waves at risk,’ said Michael Legge-Wilkinson.
The exhibition opens this Friday April 5 at the Kokomo Gallery, 121 Jonson Street, Byron Bay. Doors open at 5pm with Welcome to Country at 8pm. The exhibition will run for two weeks.