The Australian Conservation Foundation’s Federal Court case to stop the massive Scarborough gas project until its impact on the Great Barrier Reef is assessed is still waiting for a final hearing date with Woodside Energy applying to have the case struck out. 

ACF lodged the case in the Federal Court in June last year. 

Woodside’s application for the case to be struck out will be heard on Thursday 20 April.

“We lodged this case nearly ten months ago, yet it seems we’re no closer to having it play out in court,” said ACF’s General Counsel Adam Beeson. 

“We are eager for the case to progress. We say to Woodside: enough legal skirmishing, let’s deal with this matter in court.  

“There’s no time for delay, as we’re living in a climate crisis and Scarborough’s gas is a climate bomb on the verge of being detonated. 

“If it goes ahead, Scarborough and its Pluto extension will produce enormous quantities of climate-heating gas for decades to come. 

“It doesn’t matter where in the world Woodside’s gas is burned, it will heat the atmosphere and the oceans, bleaching coral reefs, including the Great Barrier Reef. 

“We expect any assessment that takes account of Scarborough’s climate impact will show it does not stack up environmentally.” 

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. 

Woodside applied to strike out ACF’s case in December 2022. The Court ordered the parties to try and resolve the issue via negotiation in the January–March 2023 period. Despite this process resolving several issues, Woodside has told the Court it wants to push ahead with the strike out application.  At a case management hearing on 12 April, the Court indicated it wanted the application dealt with expeditiously.  It has now been set down for a hearing at 4.30pm on Thursday 20 April 2023. 

ACF will be represented by Richard Beasley SC and lawyers from the Environmental Defenders Office.

Turtle pic by Xanthi Rivett

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