Conservationists seek halt to major Australian gas project

SYDNEY – Conservationists are launching an action in federal court against a major gas project off the coast of Western Australia. Campaigners insist the plan would be, in their words, a “really big carbon bomb”, although the company involved says it has passed rigorous environmental scrutiny.

The Scarborough Gas Field is a natural gas field located in the Indian Ocean, hundreds of kilometers off the west coast of Australia.

Woodside Energy, an Australian company, wants to set up offshore drilling rigs to extract natural gas from untapped gas fields and pipe it to a liquefied natural gas processing plant near the Western Australian city of Karratha. .

Most of the liquefied natural gas would be exported to Asia.

Woodside Energy says the project “has been the subject of rigorous environmental assessments by a variety of regulators.” In a statement, the company’s CEO, Meg O’Neill, said the plan would boost jobs, tax revenue and ensure gas supply reliability.

O’Neill said the company “will vigorously defend its position” in legal proceedings in Australia’s federal court.

The case has been brought by the Australian Conservation Foundation. It’s an unusual legal challenge because campaigners have argued that the Western Australia gas project would damage the Great Barrier Reef, 3,000 kilometers away, on the other side of the country.

According to court documents, the project’s estimated emissions would cause a global temperature increase of nearly 0.0004 degrees Celsius. Conservationists believe this “would result in the death of millions of corals” due to warmer ocean temperatures.

The ACF has sought an injunction against Woodside Energy’s Scarborough gas project. He wants it to stop until the new federal environment minister, Tanya Plibersek, can assess whether it would damage the Great Barrier Reef by exacerbating climate change.

ACF Executive Director Kelly O’Shanassy wants the government to reconsider the approval process for the plan.

“In a way, it went through a little loophole in national environmental law and what we want the courts to do is withdraw that project and say, no, it needs to be assessed for its climate impacts on the Great Barrier Reef.” That is the heart of the legal case,” O’Shanassy said.

Although committed to renewable energy, the recently elected centre-left government in Canberra has said it would support fossil fuel projects that “build up environmentally and then commercially”.

Australians have been warned about winter blackouts as electricity shortages affect the densely populated east coast. Several factors have caused the energy crisis, including unprecedented wet weather and a recent cold snap in eastern Australia. The Russian invasion of Ukraine in February has caused a surge in global demand for fossil fuels. There have also been outages at Australia’s old local coal-fired power stations.

The United Nations is assessing the impact of global warming on the Great Barrier Reef, as well as localized threats, including pollution and overfishing.

Arguably Australia’s greatest natural treasure, the reef runs 2,300 kilometers down the northeast coast and spans an area the size of Japan.

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