The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) will ask the Federal Court to stop Woodside Energy’s vast Scarborough gas project until its impact on the Great Barrier Reef is assessed.
Scarborough is a proposed new gas project off the north-west coast of Western Australia that would cause an estimated 1.37 billion tonnes of greenhouse pollution over the next 25 years.
Although the gas would be extracted off the coast of WA and much of it burned overseas, it would affect the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland by fuelling climate change, which is causing repeated coral bleaching events on the reef.
Scarborough has never been approved under Australia’s environment protection law because projects assessed by the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) are exempt from the national environment law.
However, that exemption does not apply if an offshore project is likely to have a significant impact on the World or National Heritage values of the Great Barrier Reef.
ACF believes the greenhouse gas emissions that will result from the Scarborough project are likely to have a significant impact on the Great Barrier Reef.
ACF will argue that means the project should not be allowed to proceed unless the project – and its impact on the reef – are approved under the national environment law.
“Scarborough’s gas is a climate bomb about to be detonated,” said ACF Chief Executive Officer Kelly O’Shanassy.
“If it goes ahead, the Scarborough gas mine and its Pluto extension will produce vast quantities of climate-heating gas for the next quarter of a century.
“It would result in annual climate pollution equal to more than the annual pollution from 15 coal fired power stations and release 1.37 billion tonnes of carbon over the next 25 years.
“Gas consists mainly of methane — a greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon dioxide.
“The head of the International Energy Agency recently said climate chaos is guaranteed if proposed oil and gas mega-projects go ahead.
“We must not fall for the accounting trick that suggests these emissions won’t affect reefs in Australia simply because the gas will mostly be burned overseas. The reef is not concerned with the source of the greenhouse gases that damage it.
“We will demonstrate to the Federal Court that Scarborough is likely to have a significant impact on the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef if it proceeds.
“If successful, the case will be highly influential in establishing that all new fossil fuel projects must be assessed for the climate damage they would cause if they went ahead.
“We expect any assessment will show new coal and gas does not stack up environmentally.”
ACF filed originating documents with the Federal Court in Melbourne on Tuesday.
ACF will be represented in court by Richard Beasley SC, David Hume, Matthew Pudovskis and lawyers from the Environmental Defenders Office.
Header pic by Xanthi Rivett