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Scarborough back in court with new challenge from Australian Conservation Foundation


Woodside's controversial Scarborough gas proposal will go back to court following a new legal challenge by the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF).

ACF will ask the Federal Court to stop Woodside Energy’s vast Scarborough gas project until its impact on the Great Barrier Reef is assessed.

Scarborough is a proposed new gas project off the north-west coast of WA that would cause an estimated 1.37 billion tonnes of greenhouse pollution over the next 25 years.

Although the gas would be extracted off the coast of Western Australia and much of it burned overseas, it would affect the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland by fuelling climate change, which is causing repeated coral bleaching events on the reef.

Scarborough has never been approved under Australia’s environment protection law because projects assessed by the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) are exempt from the national environment law. 

However, that exemption does not apply if an offshore project is likely to have a significant impact on the World or National Heritage values of the Great Barrier Reef.

ACF believes the greenhouse gas emissions that will result from the Scarborough project are likely to have a significant impact on the Great Barrier Reef.

ACF will argue that means the project should not be allowed to proceed unless the project – and its impact on the reef – are approved under the national environment law.

“Scarborough’s gas is a climate bomb about to be detonated,” said ACF Chief Executive Officer Kelly O’Shanassy.

“If it goes ahead, the Scarborough gas mine and its Pluto extension will produce vast quantities of climate-heating gas for the next quarter of a century.

“It would result in annual climate pollution equal to more than the annual pollution from 15 coal fired power stations and release 1.37 billion tonnes of carbon over the next 25 years.

“Gas consists mainly of methane — a greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon dioxide.

“The head of the International Energy Agency recently said climate chaos is guaranteed if proposed oil and gas mega-projects go ahead.

“We must not fall for the accounting trick that suggests these emissions won’t affect reefs in Australia simply because the gas will mostly be burned overseas.  The reef is not concerned with the source of the greenhouse gases that damage it.

“We will demonstrate to the Federal Court that Scarborough is likely to have a significant impact on the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef if it proceeds.

“If successful, the case will be highly influential in establishing that all new fossil fuel projects must be assessed for the climate damage they would cause if they went ahead.

“We expect any assessment will show new coal and gas does not stack up environmentally.”

ACF filed originating documents with the Federal Court in Melbourne on Tuesday.

ACF will be represented in court by Richard Beasley SC, David Hume, Matthew Pudovskis and lawyers from the Environmental Defenders Office.

Maggie Wood, the executive director of the Conservation Council of WA said: “Scarborough is one of the biggest fossil fuel developments ever proposed in Australia and at a time when there is a pressing need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and prevent irreversible damage to our climate.

“It is only right that this proposal is made to face a level of scrutiny that reflects the threat it poses to World or National Heritage values and we are fully supportive of the ACF and the EDO in this legal challenge.”



For inquiries relating to this release, please contact Josh Meadows (ACF) on 0439 342 992 or visit for more details.

For the Conservation Council of WA, please contact Robert Davies on 08 9420 7291 / 0412 272 570 or by email, [email protected]

MEDIA INFORMATION: The Conservation Council of WA (CCWA) is the state’s foremost non-profit, non-government conservation organisation representing more than 100 environmental organisations across Western Australia. 

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