Woodside share price lifts despite $17b ‘climate bomb’ court action

An environmental group will ask the Federal Court to stop work at the Scarborough gas project.

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Key points

  • Woodside is facing fresh court action with an environmental group fighting to stop development of the company's Scarborough Project until its impacts on the Great Barrier Reef are assessed 
  • The group argues the offshore project off the Western Australian coast has been exempt from Australian environmental laws so far 
  • Woodside CEO Meg O’Neill has vowed to "vigorously defend" the company's position, saying the project has passed "rigorous" regulatory assessments 

The Woodside Energy Group Ltd (ASX: WDS) share price is in the green on Wednesday. It comes after the company’s CEO vowed to “vigorously defend” legal action aiming to halt its $17 billion Scarborough Project.

An environmental group has applied for an injunction in the Federal Court. It’s calling for Scarborough’s offshore development off the Western Australian coast to be halted until the impact on the Great Barrier Reef is assessed.

At the time of writing, the Woodside share price is $32.11, 2.39% higher than its previous close.

For context, the S&P/ASX 200 Index (ASX: XJO) is up 0.2% this morning. Meanwhile, the S&P/ASX 200 Energy Index (ASX: XEJ) has gained 2.69%.

Woodside faces fresh court action

The Scarborough Project – previously touted as one of the lowest carbon-intensive gas sources for customers in north Asia – is facing a fresh legal challenge.

The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) is taking Woodside to the Federal Court. The environmental group plans to argue emissions from the project are likely to have a major impact on the Great Barrier Reef.

If the action is successful, the project would be forced to seek approval under Australia’s environmental protection laws.

So far, the project has been exempt from such laws, the ACF says. It has instead been assessed by the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA).

Woodside CEO Meg O’Neill said the project is already underway, having passed “rigorous” regulatory assessments and received primary environmental approvals.

“The project will deliver significant local and national benefits in the form of employment, tax revenue, and reliable gas supply in the energy transition,” O’Neill said.

But that doesn’t concern ACF CEO Kelly O’Shanassy, who labelled Scarborough’s future output “a climate bomb about to be detonated”. O’Shanassy continued:

[The project] 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.

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.

Lawyers representing ACF claim the case marks the first time the Federal Court has been asked to consider objective scientific evidence about the greenhouse gas impacts of an offshore gas project.

“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,” O’Shanassy said

Woodside share price snapshot

The latest court action to face Woodside’s major project hasn’t been enough to dint its share price’s strong recent performance.

The stock is currently 46% higher than it was at the start of 2022. It has also gained 37% since this time last year.

Motley Fool contributor Brooke Cooper has no position 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 Scott Phillips.

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