Two years ago, BP applied to drill for oil off the Australian coast. Now government letters show that BP praised the "welcome boost" local economies could receive doing cleanup in an oil spill, the Sidney Morning Herald reports. Australia's National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority—or Nopsema, for short—mentioned BP's claim in letters to the company about regulatory concerns. Nopsema quoted BP's argument that "in most instances, the increased activity associated with cleanup operations will be a welcome boost to local economies." BP also apparently saw no social impacts: "Since there are no unresolved stakeholder concerns ... BP interprets this event to be socially acceptable."
Australia rejected BP's effort to drill in the Great Australian Bight, but the recently revealed Nopsema letters have roused political ire. "What an incredibly stupid thing to say," says Allan Suter, the mayor of the coastal town of Ceduna, per ABC News Australia. "It certainly wouldn't have been a welcomed boost the local economy, we could have done very nicely thank you very much without it." Published by Climate Change News under freedom of information laws, the letters also say BP underestimated its impact on whales. BP acknowledged that southern right whales migrated through the drilling zone and sperm whales had been spotted there, but the oil and gas company failed to identify "potential ecological consequences" on whale feeding and migrating, Nopsema writes. (Read more Australia stories.)