Canavan announces transparency measures after Bightgate

The map showing the reach of a potential oil spill

By Nichola Davies

Federal Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Senator Matt Canavan has announced all environment plans for offshore oil and gas activities will be published, and draft environment plans for offshore seismic and exploratory drilling activities will be open for public comment, under recent changes to environmental regulations.

Announcing the changes today, Mr Canavan said the new requirements were part of a suite of changes to improve consultation and increase transparency of offshore oil and gas activities.

“Australians need to be confident that oil and gas activities being carried out offshore meet our stringent environmental regulations, and that all environmental risks and impacts of the proposed activity are taken into account,” Mr Canavan said.

The announcement comes shortly after Norwegian energy company Equinor was accused of downplaying the extent of the damage a potential oil spill could cause from exploration in the Great Australian Bight in a leaked draft report.

A map, which was in the appendix of the officially released 426-page report, shows an oil spill could could reach from Western Australia’s Albany to half-way up the New South Wales coast.

Equinor Australia country manager Joe Stangeland said the map was based on an extremely unlikely worst-case event.

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Under the changes announced by Mr Canavan, the public will have a 30-day comment period to give feedback on the environmental management of proposed seismic and exploration drilling activities.

“Environment plans for all offshore activities will be published when they are submitted to the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA), before they are assessed.

“If the plan is accepted by NOPSEMA, it will be published, along with an explanation of how public comments have been taken into account, enabling the community to see how their concerns have been addressed.”

The new regulations will come into action on April 25. All draft environment plans submitted from that date onwards will be published on the NOPSEMA website, along with information on how to make comments on the plans.

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