Woodside Petroleum’s (ASX:WPL) decision last month to green light its Scarborough project by expanding its existing Pluto LNG project has been controversial to say the least, which is probably why opponents have raised yet another legal challenge to stop it in its tracks.

The Conservation Council of Western Australia, which is already seeking a judicial review of the onshore portion of the project, launched a second case on Tuesday challenging the state government’s decision to issue a works approval for the expansion of Pluto LNG.

The green lobby, an avowed opponent of Scarborough, claimed 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.

“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, Environmental Defender’s Office managing lawyer Tim Macknay said.

“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.”

Woodside said it had complied with regulatory requirements and environmental processes in seeking and receiving its approvals and would “vigorously” defend its position.

Big gas project

The US$12bn development will tap an estimated 11.1 trillion cubic feet of gas at the Scarborough gas field that has been idle since its discovery in 1979 to fuel the second liquefied natural gas processing train at the Pluto project.

Construction is set to begin next year with first LNG cargoes to sail for Asia in 2026.

While Woodside has loudly proclaimed that the ultra-low (0.1%) carbon dioxide content of Scarborough supports its goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2050, it has drawn scathing criticism from environmental groups.

The project’s carbon footprint has been estimated at between 880 million tonnes (Woodside’s estimate) and 1.6 billion tonnes (CCWA) in both direct and indirect emissions over its entire 30-year life.

Scarborough foes are opposed to this carbon footprint, noting that the International Energy Agency had said earlier that no further fossil fuel approvals would be required to help meet the goal of achieving global net zero emissions by 2050.