The Conservation Council of Western Australia has commenced a legal challenge in the Supreme Court to overturn environmental approvals which it claims would ‘allow billions of tonnes of carbon pollution from Woodside’s proposed Burrup Hub LNG expansion’.
Acting for the CCWA, the Environmental Defenders Office will allege that approvals given by the State Government to process gas, potentially including from the proposed Scarborough and Browse Basin gas fields, at the company’s existing LNG facilities were given in contravention of the Environmental Protection Act, which requires Environmental Impact Assessment for any developments that could have a significant impact on the environment.
CCWA Director, Piers Verstegen, said the Burrup Hub is ‘the most polluting fossil fuel project ever proposed in Australia’ and the CCWA is acting to prevent the release of billions of tonnes of carbon pollution and impacts to Aboriginal heritage values on the Burrup Peninsula.
“Approvals for processing vast amounts of new gas have been given in secret, with no environmental assessment and no consultation with the public or stakeholders. This includes new gas from the proposed giant Browse Basin and Scarborough offshore gas fields, as well as onshore resources which may require fracking to extract,” he said.
“Documents released under Freedom of Information reveal that the impacts of pollution from processing the new gas – either on the climate or Murujuga rock art – were not assessed when the approvals were granted.”
The CCWA alleges that the approvals were made by retrospectively changing the description of the Pluto and North West Shelf LNG processing facilities in the Ministerial Statements for these projects. These changes were reportedly made by the EPA Chairman at the request of Woodside.
“It defies belief that approvals have been secretly issued for one of the world’s most polluting fossil fuel projects with no assessment of environmental impacts. By Woodside’s own numbers, these changes could allow gas processing that is estimated to produce around six billion tonnes of carbon pollution over the life of the Hub projects – roughly four times the pollution of the proposed Adani coal mine. The sheer scale of this pollution is staggering. It is equal to 35 new coal-fired power stations every year until 2027,” Mr Verstegen commented.
Environmental Defenders Office Managing Lawyer, Tim Macknay, said: “Our client has applied for judicial review of the EPA’s decision to allow changes to approvals of two gas processing facilities without further assessment of environmental impacts of the changes.”
“Due to the lack of assessment, the public now has no idea how much gas will be processed through these facilities, nor the overall amount of emissions likely to be facilitated by these projects,” he said.
“We will argue the government made an error by not applying the correct test in deciding whether the changes might have environmental impacts requiring further assessments.”
Woodside states that the gas to be processed will deliver cleaner energy for customers in Western Australia and overseas. It would provide thousands of jobs for Western Australians, tax revenue to state and federal governments and opportunities for local businesses, the company said.
Woodside CEO, Peter Coleman, commented that Woodside has complied with regulatory requirements and environmental processes in seeking and receiving approvals.
“We intend to vigorously defend our position. The CCWA is resorting to a legal challenge a year and a half after the approvals were granted. Their action will cost taxpayers money and flies in the face of the EPA’s independent assessment. We strongly support the State Government’s and the EPA’s processes,” he said.
“With regards to the emissions figures being quoted by the CCWA, they are highly misleading as, in reality, the use of our gas instead of other fossil fuels reduces carbon emissions,” Mr Coleman added.
“The facts are contained in the extensive publicly available documentation which Woodside has provided to support our projects.”
Woodside noted that a report prepared by consultants ERM and critically reviewed by CSIRO, found that for every one tonne of CO2-e emitted by the proposed Burrup Hub projects over 2026-2040, four tonnes of emissions could be avoided globally.
The company has also set corporate targets to support its aspiration to reach net-zero in its direct emissions by 2050 or sooner.