An oil spill in the Great Australian Bight would provide a “welcomed boost” to local economies, BP said in a 2016 report released under Freedom of Information laws.
BP made the statements in an environment plan in March 2016 during its bid to drill in the pristine region, but a spokesman for the company says it “did not reflect BP’s views”.
The report was submitted to the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA), but obtained by London-based website Climate Home News.
A search of the report revealed a suggested edit for the document stating there are statements that “should be removed”:
“Examples include stating that impacts of spill response strategies may be offset by the use of vessels from the local fishing fleet … and stating that “in most instances, the increased activity associated with clean up operations will be a welcome boost to [local] economies.”
South Australia’s coastal town of Ceduna was predicted to be one of the many communities impacted if an oil spill ever occurred in the Bight.
Ceduna Mayor Allan Suter told the ABC the company’s claim was silly and unnecessary.
“What an incredibly stupid thing to say, it certainly wouldn’t have been a welcomed boost the local economy, we could have done very nicely thank you very much without it,” Mr Suter said.
“A spill like the one that happened in Mexico would be devastating, and if there was the slightest danger of that happening then obviously the drilling wouldn’t be supported.”
BP has since withdrawn plans to drill in the region, but Norwegian oil and gas company Statoil has taken over the leases and it plans to drill an exploratory well in October 2019.
Senator still concerned over potential drilling
South Australian Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said Statoil had already made an application to drill in the Bight with NOPSEMA.
“We are very concerned because even though BP has pulled out … we can see how negligent they were in their commitment to protecting the Great Australian Bight,” she said.
“They have pulled out but their leases have gone to Statoil, so the risk of this oil slick, of an accident like this happening, of the devastation to Kangaroo Island and our coastline still remains very real.”
Senator Hanson-Young said BP’S comments were “ridiculous”.
“I think South Australians will horrified to think that a big multinational company like BP thinks the only thing good for them is [to be] out there with some buckets and some mops cleaning up an oil slick, and it is offensive and it is just unrealistic,” she said.
A spokesperson for BP said the wording “does not reflect BP’s views”.
“This correspondence relates to a draft document that was never finalised,” the spokesperson said.
“We acknowledge that a number of aspects should have been better thought through and articulated, even in the draft stage.
“They do not reflect the final views of BP or of the regulator.”
Statoil’s Australian manager Jacques-Etienne Michel said while the company could not comment on BP’s work, it was currently working on the environmental plan to be submitted to NOPSEMA for its project.
“The plan will be subject to a consultation and engagement process,” Mr Michel said.
“We will only undertake drilling activity if we can do it safely and with the approval of the regulator.”