Legislation would result in compensation being paid to companies who lose licences as a result of the law
September 13, 2016 — All mining activity in the Great Australian Bight would be outlawed under legislation to be introduced to Parliament by the Greens.
The proposed legislation, moved by the South Australian senator Sarah Hanson-Young, would put an abrupt end to BP’s controversial plans to drill for oil there, as well as that of the other companies with exploration licenses in the region: Santos and Chevron.
“The parliament has to step in and make sure that this national treasure is protected for generations to come,” Hanson-Young said. “BP will put this spectacular marine park at risk and, if they’re given approval, there are several other companies lining up behind them.
“Allowing the company responsible for the Gulf of Mexico spill to drill in the Great Australian Bight is a disaster waiting to happen.”
The proposed legislation is unlikely gain the support of Labor or the Coalition but, if it did pass, would result in compensation being paid to companies who lose licences as a result of the law.
The news comes just days after the Guardian revealed BP’s drilling in the treacherous waters could occur using faulty equipment that US regulators have said is likely to cause a spill as bad as BP’s 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
Since 2003, giant bolts used in offshore oil operations internationally have been failing, with investigations revealing that all the major manufacturers were producing faulty equipment. The US regulator described the issue as “systemic” and said it has only been down to luck that they haven’t caused a major disaster.
BP said their operations in the Bight won’t be using a particular batch of faulty bolts.
A spokesperson for BP said: “The US regulator issued guidance that some types of subsea bolts can be subject to hydrogen embrittlement and should be changed to other types that are not subject to the concern. Our drilling contractor has done this. BP has independently verified that it has done this.”
But BP didn’t say anything about the broader issue identified as “systemic” in the industry.
For more detailed questions, BP referred Guardian Australia to its contractor Diamond Offshore Drilling, which will conduct the drilling. Diamond Offshore Drilling did not respond to queries.
Similarly, the only action the Australian regulator, the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (Nopsema), has taken has been to ask Australian operators if any of them were using the recalled batch of bolts that were recalled in 2013. They also couldn’t point to any action they have taken about the broader, systemic, problem.
The news comes as the Senate environment and communications committee considers what to do with a lapsed inquiry into BP’s plans in the Great Australian Bight.
The committee was scrutinizing the proposal before the election, but has not examined the issue of faulty equipment or the newly released locations for two of BP’s four wells, and they haven’t yet produced a report.
After the faulty equipment issue was revealed this week, Labor’s environment and water spokesman, Tony Burke, said the opposition was committed to continuing the inquiry into BP’s plans in the Bight.
“Labor committed during the election to supporting a senate inquiry on BP’s Great Australian Bight project and we look forward to that getting underway as soon as feasible,” Burke said.
The members of the committee are expected to decide by Thursday how much further to take the inquiry after it is re-established.