Today I visited Port Lincoln to hear first-hand the concerns of local government, the fishing industry, ecotourism and the community about the prospect of drilling in the Great Australian Bight.
If it was good enough for the SA government to announce a moratorium on fracking in the Southeast because “that is what the people of the Southeast wanted” they should listen to the concerns of communities along the coast from Port Lincoln to Lake Alexandrina about oil and gas drilling in the Bight.
The SA government should be using its good relations with Prime Minister Scott Morrison to encourage him to return ultimate responsibility for drilling in the Bight to the Environment Minister, a move that would require much more rigorous assessment than the current process and require greater consideration of local community attitudes.
Fishing is worth half a billion dollars a year to South Australia, much of it centred on Port Lincoln.
“The economic impact of an oil spill would be disastrous for the economy and wellbeing of the Port Lincoln community. Modelling by BP, for example, indicates that a spill could cover 750km along the coast,” said Senator Storer.
“Waves can reach 23m in the Bight and the water is deep by drilling standards, up to 3km.”
In the absence of action by the Federal government I am taking action in the Senate to make it much harder to authorise drilling.
I am drafting an amendment to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 to return final responsibility for authorising or rejecting drilling in the Bight to the Environment Minister.
“This should never have been ceded by then Minister Greg Hunt in 2014,” said Senator Storer.
“This would mean that Environment Minister Melissa Price would have to address community concern and take responsibility for any decision she takes on drilling in the Bight in the lead up to the next federal election.”
Returning ultimate responsibility to the Minister provides for a much more rigorous assessment of any drilling proposals with much greater safeguards than the current NOPSEMA process.
For example, the Minister must act consistent with international treaties and conventions, must take into account “threats of serious or irreversible environmental damage”, must take into account community and stakeholder concerns and any decision must be consistent with the principles of ecologically sustainable development.
By contrast, NOPSEMA primarily considers technical engineering and scientific evidence. Contact: Nino Miletovic 0478 846 603