Santos (ASX:STO) accused in court of ‘cavalier attitude’. Here’s why

Santos is embroiled in a legal case in the Northern Territory over its fracking operations.

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A Santos oil and gas worker wearing a hard hat stands in a yellow field looking at blueprints with an oil rig and blue sky in the background

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Key Points

  • Santos has started the year well with its share price up by almost 6% since January 1
  • The oil and gas giant is facing fresh legal challenges in the Northern Territory over its fracking expansion activities
  • Rallen Australia alleges Santos failed to disclose vital information for fracking on its land

Oil and gas giant Santos Ltd (ASX: STO) opened the session at a share price of $7.09 today. The shares have since dipped by 1.27% to $7.00 in early trading after driving hard into the green this week.

ASX investors have been drawn to Santos since late December amid renewed strength in raw materials prices. The price of natural gas, in particular, has shot to a near-record high and is gaining more steam in the new year.

Meantime, Santos is quietly embroiled in a legal case over its fracking operations in the Northern Territory. Here are the details.

Rallen versus Santos

Santos is facing fresh challenges over its exploration activities as it attempts to expand its fracking in the Beetaloo Basin.

The Basin is set to become a gold standard onshore gas region. This follows state and federal government support for development in the area.

Santos is up against the well-capitalised company Rallen Australia. Rallen alleges that Santos failed to disclose vital information before submitting proposals to frack on its Tanumbirini Station.

Rallen is backed by the wealthy Ravazzotti and Langenhoven families, who own pastoral leases on more than 1 million hectares of land. They are reported to “emphatically oppose unconventional gas activities” on their land.

In hearings this week, the court was told that Santos had failed to meet its disclosure obligations and had tried to convince the NT government that it didn’t need an environmental management plan renewal for the proposed 2 wells at Tanumbirini.

Santos was reported to have said that Rallen “could reasonably have been assumed to have known about the revised plan”, according to The Guardian, to which the judge presiding wasn’t so receptive.

Rallen alleges that Santos had a legal obligation under the legislation and land stakeholder engagement obligations. It says it signed agreements with Santos under false pretences in the original court filings.

Rallen’s barrister, Marcus Pesman SC, told the court: “At the very fundamental level, what this case is about is a cavalier attitude by a listed Australian public company to important disclosure regulations imposed on it by regulations designed to balance the interests of the miners and landholders.”

The hearing continues this week.

Santos share price summary

The Santos share price is off to a strong start this year and has climbed 6% to date in 2022.

Santos shares struggled in 2021, and are down 6% over the past 12 months.

In December, Santos finalised its takeover of Oil Search.

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The author has no positions in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia's parent company Motley Fool Holdings Inc. has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

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