Woodside’s Scarborough project faces second Supreme Court challenge

Pluto Train 2 (Scarborough challenge)
Pluto Train 2 (Image: Jarrad Seng)

The Conservation Council of WA (CCWA) has launched a second Supreme Court challenge relating to Woodside‘s Scarborough gas proposal as pressure continues to build around the controversial fossil fuel development.

The council, which served papers on Tuesday, will challenge a decision by the WA government to issue a Works Approval for the expansion of the Pluto LNG development on the Burrup Peninsula to allow processing of gas from the Scarborough field.

The challenge is the second to be launched in the Supreme Court of WA, following an earlier challenge which will be heard in mid-December.

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The Scarborough development has been widely criticised by campaigners as one of Australia’s most polluting fossil fuel proposals. Woodside CEO Meg O’Neill last week confirmed the development would emit a total of 1.6 billion tonnes of CO2—the equivalent of 15 coal-fired power stations over its lifetime.

CCWA, represented by the Environmental Defenders Office, will assert that the existing works approval for expansion of the Pluto facility, issued by the CEO of the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER), was unlawful as it failed to properly consider and control the environmental harm generated by the development’s greenhouse gas emissions.

By bringing the case before the Supreme Court, CCWA is hoping to ensure that all sources of greenhouse gas emissions released into the atmosphere are properly assessed by the WA government with respect to the environmental harm that they cause.

Tim Macknay, managing lawyer for the Environmental Defender’s Office (EDO) said, “It is well established that any additional CO2 emissions take us further beyond what is considered acceptable for a safe climate.

“Any additional CO2 emissions released into the atmosphere increases the risk of bushfires, droughts, heatwaves and other climate-related phenomena which put communities at risk.

“That is why governments and regulators—such as the CEO of the WA Department of Water and Environmental Regulation—should be doing everything in their power to properly assess and control any additional greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate the risks of climate related extreme weather events to the Australian people.

“The CEO of DWER has a clear power and obligation to assess and control risks of environmental harm from highly polluting industry during the approvals process. The Conservation Council will argue that this did not happen and therefore the approval—which was granted by the CEO—is invalid.”

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The expansion of the Pluto LNG processing facility on the Burrup Peninsula is a critical part of Woodside’s plans to unlock gas contained in the offshore Scarborough gas field. It would more than double the annual greenhouse gas emissions from the Pluto facility and extend the operating life of the facility by several decades.

Woodside responded to the challenge saying, “Woodside has received a proceeding in the Supreme Court of Western Australia challenging a Western Australian State Government works approval for the Pluto Train 2 project. This proceeding has been
commenced by the Conservation Council of Western Australia.

“Woodside has complied with regulatory requirements and environmental processes in seeking and receiving its approvals. Woodside will vigorously defend its position.”