Environmental Defenders Office joins our client The Wilderness Society (South Australia) in strongly welcoming news that Norwegian multinational Equinor has abandoned its plans to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight.

Our case in the Federal Court, launched in January 2020 on behalf of TWS, sought to overturn the environmental approval granted just before Christmas by the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) for Equinor’s Stromlo-1 project. The controversial project involved deepwater drilling to explore new oil reserves located under protected areas of the Bight off the coast of South Australia.

Update 18 March 2020: On 9 March 2020 NOPSEMA formally accepted Equinor’s notification to end the operation of its approved environment plan for the Stromlo-1 project. Our client is extremely pleased that Equinor’s plans have now officially come to an end. This decision will have hugely positive benefits for the marine environment of the Bight. As a result of Equinor’s withdrawal of its plans, our client’s Federal Court action was able to be discontinued without the need to go to trial.

David Morris, EDO CEO, said: “We strongly welcome the news that Equinor has abandoned plans to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight. While the commercial motivation for that decision is not clear, the litigation that EDO ran in the Federal Court would have been a factor taken into account by Directors when making decisions about the long term future of this project.

“If our client’s case had proceeded and was successful, Equinor would likely have had to go back to the drawing board on its community engagement for this already highly controversial project.

“Any oil spill as a result of drilling in the Bight would pose catastrophic risks to marine and coastal life across southern Australia. This pristine marine environment is a haven for whales and dolphins, including the world’s most important nursery for the endangered southern right whale.

“In 2020, there is also significant public concern about the development of new fossil fuel reserves and that impact on climate change, especially after recent devastating bushfires, drought and weather events. We urgently need to be reducing emissions, not increasing them, if the world is to meet internationally agreed targets for a safe climate.

“We join our client The Wilderness Society SA in welcoming this very good news for the environment.”