Tom Fedorowytsch, 22 February 2016

A proposal by petroleum giant BP to search for oil in the Great Australian Bight off the coast of South Australia will be examined by a Senate committee.

Last November, the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environment Management Authority (NOPSEMA) rejected BP’s first application for failing to meet all of its environmental requirements.

Greens senator for South Australia Robert Simms said the inquiry would give the community and experts a chance to have their say while BP prepared its second application.

“We need this inquiry so that we can protect the beautiful, Australian coastal environment and the marine life in these waters,” Senator Simms said.

“This is going to be an inquiry that ensures that all the facts are put on the table and the implications of BP’s drilling in the bight will be considered.”

A Senate committee will examine BP’s plans, and the environmental and economic impacts, including on marine reserves, whales, tourism and the fishing industry.

“If this project goes ahead we really are gambling with the future of the Great Australian Bight,” Senator Simms said.

He said although his opposition was well-known, the community deserved a say as well.

A BP spokesperson said the company welcomed scrutiny and would engage with the Senate inquiry.

“We will look to explain why we believe the oil and gas industry can operate safely and responsibly in the Great Australian Bight,” the statement said.

“The industry as a whole makes a very important contribution to Australia and provides many social and economic benefits.

“BP is continuing to work on its environment plan for the Great Australian Bight.”

Wilderness Society SA’s Peter Owen said it was unlikely the Senate inquiry would find nothing harmful in BP’s plans.

“I’d be very surprised if that be the case,” Mr Owen said.

“What we’re talking about here is the Great Australian Bight whale nursery, is a pristine marine environment, and not at all an appropriate place to be looking to industrialise and try and turn into an oil field.

“We need to be phasing out fossil fuels, not further expanding the industry.”

Matthew Doman from the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association welcomed the inquiry.

He was confident it would show that the Bight could be safely explored.

“I think with proper regulatory oversight there’s no reason that a safe and sustainable offshore petroleum industry shouldn’t be possible in South Australia as it has been in Victoria and Western Australia for several decades,” Mr Doman said.

The committee is due to report its findings on May 12, 2016.

Extracted in full from ABC News.