Woodside’s controversial Scarborough gas project is once again under threat from a high-profile court challenge which could derail plans for a key infrastructure proposal.
The Conservation Council of WA (CCWA) will argue that the decision to approve construction of Pluto Train 2 – a proposal to expand Woodside’s gas processing capacity at their Pluto LNG gas facility – was unlawful because pollution and environmental harm from greenhouse gas emissions were not given proper consideration.
The expansion of the facility on WA’s Burrup Peninsula would nearly double its emissions, resulting in more than 1.4 million additional tonnes of greenhouse gases per year, once the site is fully operational.
The building of Pluto Train 2 is a critical part of Woodside’s plans to unlock gas contained in the offshore Scarborough field.
The decision in question was made in May 2021 by a delegate of the CEO of the WA Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER).
WA is the only state in which greenhouse gas emissions have increased since 2005 – by more than 20 per cent – while states like Victoria and South Australia have reduced their emissions by at least the same amount.
The gas export industry is largely responsible for this increase in emissions as companies like Woodside continue to pursue ever larger and more polluting proposals.
Gas – which is a fossil fuel – is more than 25 times more potent than CO2 in trapping heat in the atmosphere and is a direct contributor to ongoing climate change which increases the frequency of floods, bushfires and droughts in Western Australia.
The case is considered a key test of the principle that the WA government has a clear power and obligation to properly consider and control the harm from greenhouse gas emissions whenever it chooses to approve construction of certain kinds of polluting facilities.
CCWA will be represented for the judicial review by the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO).
Clare Lakewood, Special Counsel for the EDO, said the science is clear that any additional CO2 emissions would take the climate further beyond what are considered safe and liveable conditions.
“Climate change is fuelling more frequent and more serious natural disasters”, she said.
“Any additional carbon pollution increases the risk of droughts, bushfires, heatwaves and other climate-related extremes which put communities at risk. We need the regulators that are responsible for protecting the environment to do their job, and to help avoid even worse impacts from the climate crisis.
“CCWA argues that, when they decide whether to issue an approval, the CEO of Department of Water and Environmental Regulation has a clear obligation to consider controlling greenhouse gas emissions from highly polluting industry. This did not happen and therefore the CEO’s approval to construct this gas processing facility is invalid.”
Woodside has come under intense pressure for its controversial Scarborough project and has faced substantial national opposition over the past year. Scarborough is currently the subject of a separate legal challenge from the Australian Conservation Foundation in the Federal Court.
The Scarborough project, which will produce an estimated 1.6 billion tonnes of carbon pollution for the next 25 years, still has several regulatory hurdles to clear including four environmental approvals from the federal oil and gas regulator, NOPSEMA.
Maggie Wood, Executive Director of the Conservation Council of WA, said: “We firmly believe that governments and their departments have a legal and moral duty to use all their available powers to prevent damage to our climate.
“In this case, we argue that the state government, by failing to properly consider the environmental harm of this highly polluting proposal, has failed in that duty.
“To avoid irreversible damage to our climate and protect the people of WA from the horrific effects of more droughts, floods and bushfires it is vital that the long-lasting impacts of fossil fuel proposals are taken seriously and given the most stringent and careful regulatory assessment before decisions are made.
“This development is a key component in Woodside’s plans to exploit the Scarborough gas field which is completely incompatible with the goals of the international Paris Agreement and the alarming findings of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.”
MEDIA INFORMATION (CCWA): 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.
For more information, visit: ccwa.org.au.
CONTACT: For any enquiries relating to this release, please contact Robert Davies
08 9420 7291 / 0412 272 570 or by email, [email protected]
MEDIA INFORMATION (EDO): Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) is the largest environmental legal centre in the Australia-Pacific, dedicated to protecting our climate, communities and shared environment by providing access to justice, running groundbreaking litigation and leading law reform advocacy.
For more information visit: edo.org.au