Storer seeks two-step drilling review

VISIT: Senator Tim Storer has put a bill to parliament, and wants it debated and voted on before the election, calling on the federal opposition to bring it to the floor.
VISIT: Senator Tim Storer has put a bill to parliament, and wants it debated and voted on before the election, calling on the federal opposition to bring it to the floor.

Independent Senator Tim Storer visited Port Lincoln on Wednesday to garner support from locals for his bill that would introduce a compulsory higher level of consideration for drilling proposals in the Great Australian Bight. 

Mr Storer said as an independent senator, he cannot bring the bill to the floor for debate, and was now seeking support from the opposition to bring it forward for a potential vote into legislation. 

"The nature of the proposal is to drill 2,250 metres deep," he said. 

"Therefore I welcome the NOPSEMA technical expertise, but I thought there should be a two stage process....looking at serious or irreversible environment damage, community concerns, and ecological sustainable development."

Mr Storer said these aspects were covered in the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, but doesn't apply for the decision on drilling, which his amendment bill looks to rectify. 

"An idea I had for legislation was for a higher level of consideration, which already exists under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Act....but doesn't apply for these decisions," he said. 

The bill would retain the initial NOPSEMA review, but if NOPSEMA approves an action in the Bight, then the act's second review process would "kick-in".

The bill, Mr Storer said, would ensure the responsibility for decisions on petroleum and greenhouse gas activity in the Bight is returned to the appropriate Minister, who would be forced to take into account a more rigorous assessment under the EPBC Act. 

Mr Storer visited Port Lincoln in September of last year, and visited on Wednesday this week on the last day open to public consultation to Equinor's environmental plan.  

"Last September I visited regarding drilling in the Bight, and I met with industry associations, tourism companies, and then-mayor Bruce Green," he said. 

Yesterday Mr Storer met again with concerned residents, who expressed worries over the public consultations, claiming that genuine consultation with "relevant stakeholders" has not taken place.

Of particular concern to Mr Storer was the view that Equinor was prioritising views of those who undertake work within a narrow 40 kilometre radius (of the drill site) and receptive industries at the expense of other relevant stakeholders such as the Abalone industry.

"(They said) relevant stakeholders for Equinor's environmental plan have to be within a 40 kilometre radius (of the drill site)....for instance the Abalone Industry Association would be 'not relevant'," he said.

"From my perspective, this heightens the need for my bill.

"My not bringing in new considerations,  but (currently) they are just chosen not to be referred to.

"I put together the bill and introduced it in November, as an independent I can do that...but putting it to debate is not an easy thing, and I won't have the opportunity before the election.

"I'm looking to have major parties support that process, and it's something the ALP could do." 

Mr Storer said it had been important to come to Port Lincoln and show his respect for the community. 

"I want to be respectful to the people of Port Lincoln, that's why my bill's not a blanket ban, it's just looking for a higher level of review," he said. 

"I have confidence that NOPSEMA has the technical expertise, but from an environmental assessment point of view, I'd be more satisfied for it to go ahead under this (new) act given the Bight is so unique."