Equinor takes on board more than 30,000 entries

RESPONSE: More than 30,000 submissions were made to Equinor's Environment Plan during its public comment period. Picture: Equinor
RESPONSE: More than 30,000 submissions were made to Equinor's Environment Plan during its public comment period. Picture: Equinor

Equinor is in the process of updating its Environmental Plan for its proposed exploration drilling program in the Great Australian Bight after receiving thousands of public responses.

The company put the draft plan for its Stromlo-1 exploration well out for public comment for 30 days, which allowed people to provide input and highlight areas of improvement.

The public comment period closed on March 20 with Equinor receiving more than 30,000 entries.

Equinor country manager for Australia Jone Stangeland said the number of entries aligned with the company's expectations and the industry's experience for comparable projects.

"We want to thank those who took the time to read our EP and submit comments to the plan," he said.

"The comments cover a range of topics, from climate change to safety, environmental impact and others."

Mr Stangeland said a large number of entries reviewed so far were general statements that did not offer constructive feedback and many were influenced by material that misrepresented the risk and consequences of a major oil spill.

"It is unfortunate that this misleading information has resulted in expressions of genuine fear and concern in many of the submissions," he said.

"We call on all parties in this public discussion to hold themselves to a high standard of factual and balanced information."

Equinor is working through all relevant comments and updating its plan prior to submission with the regulator NOPSEMA.

It is also preparing a report to detail how it has considered relevant comments which will be made public.

Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Matt Canavan announced on April 25 new regulations that would mean all environmental plans would be published and there would be a public comment period for all seismic and exploratory drilling proposals.

In a public statement NOPSEMA said these changes would provide the public with an opportunity to have their say on the proposed environmental management of offshore exploration activities before NOPSEMA began assessment. 

All comments received will be taken into consideration by NOPSEMA when determining the acceptability of the proposed enviornmental management plan.

The regulation also keeps in place the need for relevant persons consultation.

Australian Southern Bluefin Tuna Industry Association research scientist Kirsten Rough said as an identified 'relevant person', the tuna industry would continue its consultation with Equinor as its interests would be impacted by their application.