After receiving a major kick in the nuts in December, the quest to stop Norwegian energy company Equinor from drilling in the Great Australian Bight has been renewed after a legal challenge was announced yesterday.

The Wilderness Society—who are a part of the Great Australian Bight Alliance—are taking the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) to Federal Court, claiming the regulatory body had insufficient grounds on which to grant Equinor environmental approval for the project after the company failed to consult with groups who would be affected by the drilling. This included environmental groups, local Aboriginal people, and numerous local governments.

NOPSEMA granted Equinor environmental approval for its plans to deep-water drill off the South Australian coast on December 18, less than a month after a National Day of Action against the proposal was held. Tens of thousands of people took to more than 50 beaches across the country on November 23 to tell Equinor their oil well was unwanted, but it ultimately had little bearing on NOPSEMA’s decision.

Approval on the environmental front meant Equinor cleared the second and most rigorous hurdle in its quest to get a green light for the project, with a well operations plan and a facility safety case the final steps needed to be approved before it could start. The company has expressed its wish to get operations underway by the end of this year.

But that plan has obviously taken a hit with legal action now being pursued, which even if it’s not successful, will at least delay the moment the very Scandinavian-sounding Stromlo-1 well is put in.

Surfing World editor, Sean Doherty, who along with Heath Joske and Damien Cole has been very much responsible for mobilising the surf community against the project, said this latest development would work against Equinor in a number of ways.

“The longer this thing drags out the less likely it’s going to happen,” he said. “What it also does is open up another front of bad press for Equinor, especially at home in Norway. That’s the worst-case scenario for Equinor.”

While he wasn’t sure if The Wilderness Society had any chance of winning their case, he said he’d seen firsthand how little consultation Equinor had done.

“They only consulted with people they knew agreed with their practices. They’ve done the bare minimum. They’ve done fuck-all consultation with the indigenous groups down there.”

He believed it was important for everyone opposed to Equinor’s plans to keep the pressure on, especially in the wake of what’s transpired over the last few months.

“It’s not over by a long way,” he said. “The last thing Australia needs is another oil field. We’ve been on fire for months. We’ve just been through our hottest, driest year ever. 

“No one wants this.”