Australia's Federal Court has temporarily halted the approval for Woodside Energy to conduct seismic blasting under the seabed for its $12 billion Scarborough gas project following a legal challenge by an Indigenous woman, Raelene Cooper. Cooper, a traditional custodian of Murujuga land in Western Australia, filed a judicial review, asserting that the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) made an error in approving Woodside's seismic blasting without proper consultation with her.
Judge Craig Colvin agreed with Cooper's argument, ruling that NOPSEMA did not consult all relevant parties, rendering the approval invalid. This decision requires Woodside to obtain new approval for its environmental plan before conducting the seismic survey for the Scarborough project.
Seismic testing involves the use of specialized ships to blast compressed air, creating sound waves that map fossil fuel reserves beneath the seabed. The noise generated by these blasts can impact marine life, including whales and turtles, which are culturally significant to Cooper.
Woodside has stated that the court's ruling will not affect the project's timeline to produce its first liquefied natural gas (LNG) cargo in 2026. The company plans to work with NOPSEMA to obtain an accepted environmental plan before proceeding with the seismic survey.
This court decision is seen as a victory for groups opposing fossil fuel developments and highlights the importance of proper consultation and environmental considerations in such projects.