Woodside back in court over Scarborough project

Woodside's Scarborough LNG project (Scarborough gas)
Woodside's Scarborough-Pluto gas project

Oil and gas giant Woodside’s controversial Scarborough gas project is once again under threat from a high-profile court challenge that 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.

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CCWA says 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 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).

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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 still has several regulatory hurdles to clear, including four environmental approvals from the federal oil and gas regulator, NOPSEMA.