Activism manual to fight for the bight

Dear friends, I wrote this manual to help you understand what is happening, why it’s concerning, and what you can do about it right now.

Chris Booth
May 13, 2019 · 6 min read

Norwegian oil company Equinor (re-branded in 2018 from Statoil or “State Oil”) is applying for the right to deep-sea drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight.

The Australian public is horrified (Source: New York Times) and so am I.

Worried, I paddled out onto the Oslo Fjord in front of the Opera House on Sunday 12 May 2019 to join 130 others in the 8 degree water to send a message that this is not ok. Photo: Hallvard Kolltveit

What you need to know in 60 seconds.

This well is called Stromlo-1 and will be located 372km from Australian soil, within:

  1. Australia’s continental shelf,
  2. Australia’s exclusive economic zone, and
  3. in proximity to a number of Government protected Marine parks.
It’s just… there!

The well begins 2km below South Australia’s notorious Southern Ocean and Equinor believes it must drill down a further 2km from the seabed to reach oil reserves. That’s a total of 4km. This will be the deepest well Equinor has ever driven. Both the Ocean environment and the depth of drilling are extreme by industry standards. Equinor has released extensive risk minimisation material and spill modelling in its Environmental Plan and has “held over 130 meetings with groups and organisations throughout South Australia to listen and learn about local issues and inform about our plans…” (Source: Equinor).

The company’s revised Environmental Plan is awaiting decision by the Australian National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA).

Source: NOPSEMA activity and status database, which you can look up anytime here.

An oil spill is unlikely but possible, and the impact could be catastrophic for Australia.

If the project goes ahead, who stands to gain?

  1. Equinor’s shareholders, of which the Norwegian government owns 67%.
  2. The South Australian economy, who could expand its economy by 6% and benefit from the creation of more than 1000 temporary construction jobs.
  3. The Australian Government, through collection of an estimated $1.7bn in state and commonwealth income taxes.

In the event of an oil spill, who bears the cost?

  1. Everyday Australians who derive cultural and economic value from Australia’s coastal activities, together with the many indigenous communities who are custodians of the land and its oceans and derive significant heritage value from Australia’s marine ecosystem.
  2. Marine ecologies and sealife who require the Southern Ocean in order to survive.
  3. Equinor’s insurers.

The world is changing. And so must they.

We still need to extract oil from the ground for the economy to function until either that oil runs out or other more sustainable alternatives become more effective, whichever is the first. It is however no longer acceptable to extract oil in fragile or protected environments or at the risk of emperilling national cultures.

Simply put. Stromlo-1 is in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

This is about public interest in Australia.

The risk case put fourth by Equinor follows industry standards and practices and is built upon deeply technical procedural and modelling data. It concludes that the risk is acceptable. Well thank the gods! If it didn’t the Environmental Plan simply should never have existed at all. What really matters here is public interest.

The Australian government has a sovereign right to make decisions for the benefit of the Australian people, and this includes granting drilling licenses such as this one. It will grant the license for Stromlo-1 so long as it is convinced it is in the public interest, all things considered.

The risk is not the probability of an oil spill, but the fact that it can happen at all, in this particular place, at this time in history.

The public interest is determined by whether the Australian public are happy to live with this risk.

The Australian public are demonstrably not happy to live with this risk.

  • 14k posts using the hashtags #fightforthebight and #bigoildontsurf
  • 19k members signed up to the Great Australian Bight Alliance
  • 30k submissions made to NOPSEMA during the period of public comment
  • 280k letters of concern and petitions signed via The Great Australian Bight Alliance, the Wilderness society, and Greenpeace
  • Hundreds of public protests inspiring tens of thousands of Australians showing up and paddling out across Australia to deliver the message of no thank you
  • Millions of Australians actively concerned about Stromlo-1

Having also relied on this coastline most of my life, my opinion is…

  1. Stromlo-1 is a confiscation of the rights of everyday Australians to preserve, use, and enjoy their coastline for culture and sustenance, and
  2. Stromlo-1 is against the public interest.

In Norway, public interest and shareholder interest are the same thing when it comes to Equinor

Equinor exists to deliver profits to its shareholders, and the Norwegian Governments owns 67% of it. The Norwegian government has sovereign rights to make decisions for the benefit of the Norwegian people. “Benefit of the Norwegian people” generally means in the public interest.

Therefore, if it’s not in the public interest for Norwegians, it is not in the shareholder’s interests (by majority) for Equinor.

Stromlo-1 will deliver profits to Norwegians who take on essentially zero risk. But profits are obviously not the only motivation and the scope of risk extends beyond the profit and loss statement. Truth is Stromlo-1 is already a bad move for brand Equinor and for brand Norway globally. You can just google around to see that. Norway and Australia are friends, and when the Australian public actively protest nationwide against both Equinor and Norway because of Stromlo-1 a simple and important questions arises…

Are the profits generated by Stromlo-1 worth the risks to Norwegians?

In my opinion, no. Stromlo-1 is not in the Norwegian public interest.

What can be done to stop Stromlo-1 from going ahead

1 point: Follow

2 points: Share

  • Share this article as well as the posts you see in these social media communities with the people around you, and add a note that you’re concerned so the people you care about can understand too.
  • Share your concern on Equinor’s facebook page and instagram account

3 points: state your concern

4 points: Attend

  • If you can paddle out, then paddle out. If you prefer to stay on land, no problem! Australians and Norwegians are turning out to demonstrate their opposition to Stromlo-1 and if it matters to you, so should you.

5 points: take direct action

  • Write to Kjell-Børge Freiberg, the Norwegian Minister for Petroleum and Resources: E-mail Phone: (+47) 22 24 61 00
KB seems really nice. Say hei!
Matt’s just your regular fair dinkum hard working Australian. Say G’day!
  • AUSTRALIANS: Make it an election issue at the upcoming federal election. Is the opposition party taking a stance on this to win the House? Force the issue and make your vote count.
  • NORWEGIANS: Call Equinor’s ethics helpline and tell them you are concerned: +47 800 18 537

Equinor states on its website that:

In all our business activities we will comply with applicable laws, act in an ethical, sustainable and socially responsible manner, practice good corporate governance and respect internationally recognised human rights principles. We will maintain an open dialogue on these issues, internally and externally.

Call and let them know that Stromlo-1 doesn’t match this statement.

  • NORWEGIANS: If you hold shares in Equinor, you can give The Wilderness Society your proxy vote. You can also purchase shares today for about $21 a share and earn rights as a shareholder by doing so.

Chris Booth

Written by

Hei. I’m from Sydney, live in Norway, and I work at Awayco. I try to go outside as much as I can and be a good husband. I don’t play any musical instruments.

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