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WA judge rejects Woodside gas challenge

Woodside's Scarborough gas project
A judge has rejected a challenge against approvals granted for Woodside's Scarborough gas project. Photo: Scarborough Gas Action Alliance
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A West Australian judge has rejected a bid to overturn environmental approvals granted in relation to Woodside’s $16 billion Scarborough gas project.

WA’s Environmental Protection Authority agreed in 2019 to remove restrictions on Woodside’s LNG processing plants off the state’s northwest coast.

The decision cleared the way for Woodside to transfer gas from its Scarborough field via a 430km pipeline to its Pluto LNG onshore plant.

The Conservation Council of WA last year went to the Supreme Court to challenge the 2019 decision by the EPA’s then-chair Tom Hatton.

It argued Dr Hatton had failed to properly assess the environmental impact of the changes.

The court heard he approved the application on the same day he was presented with supporting documents spanning hundreds of pages, along with a summary memorandum.

Supreme Court Justice Jeremy Allanson on Tuesday dismissed the challenge, saying the CCWA had failed to demonstrate Dr Hatton did not engage in an “active intellectual process” of consideration as required under state legislation.

He said the EPA’s delay in bringing the case despite being urged by Woodside to act promptly was “excessive and unwarrantable”.

“There was nothing that prevented the applicant from commencing this action, even if it wished to pursue other options,” Justice Allanson said in his written judgment.

Woodside welcomed the decision in a statement to the ASX, saying it continued to progress the Scarborough development.

The project, off the coast of Karratha, was given the go-ahead by Woodside and partner BHP last November.

Activists have warned Scarborough will produce an additional 1.6 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, “equivalent to building 15 new coal power stations”.

There are also concerns about the impact the project will have on heritage-listed Murujuga rock art on the Burrup Peninsula.

Woodside is aiming to achieve net zero direct emissions by 2050 or sooner and has set targets of 15 per cent reduction by 2025 and 30 per cent by 2030.

It insists Scarborough has been subject to extensive review and will deliver one of the lowest-carbon LNG sources in Australia.

CCWA executive director Maggie Wood said the decision was disappointing.

“The Scarborough proposal will bring dangerous levels of carbon and methane pollution, accelerate climate damage and have a serious impact on the prevalence of extreme weather events like bushfires,” she said in a statement.

“Today’s decision does not change these facts and we remain opposed to this damaging proposal.

“We are now considering our options in light of today’s decision.”

– AAP