The company said the challenge came almost 18 months after the receipt of environmental approvals to process gas at its North West Shelf and Pluto LNG facilities.
Woodside chief executive Peter Coleman accused the conservation council of quoting “highly misleading” emission figures.
“In reality, the use of our gas instead of other fossil fuels reduces carbon emissions,” he said.
The facts are contained in the extensive publicly available documentation which Woodside has provided to support our projects.
Woodside is in the hunt for a new chief executive and facing critical decisions on multibillion-dollar investments.
Woodside is targeting an investment call on its $16 billion Scarborough gas project in the second half of calendar 2021, around the same time Mr Coleman is due to depart.
It is also when Woodside is due to make a call on its plan to build a second LNG production train at the company’s Pluto plant near Karratha after recently rejecting suggestions the Scarborough gas should instead be processed at the existing North West Shelf plant.
The company has pushed back an investment decision on the $US25 billion Browse project to sometime from 2023.
Woodside has said its vision for the Burrup Hub, where it has operated for decades, could involve processing more gas than has been extracted from the North West Shelf since start-up in 1984.
That masterplan would involve a number of related projects, including the North West Shelf extension, the PlutoKarratha Gas Plant Interconnector, Scarborough and Pluto Train 2.
Conservation Council director Piers Verstegen said the Burrup Hub was the most polluting fossil-fuel project ever proposed in Australia and the council was fighting to prevent the release of billions of tonnes of carbon emissions.
Approvals for processing vast amounts of new gas have been given in secret, with no environmental assessment and no consultation with public or stakeholders, he said.
This includes new gas from the proposed giant Browse Basin and Scarborough offshore gas fields, as well as onshore resources which may require fracking to extract.”
The Conservation Council said government documents released under Freedom of Information showed the impact of processing gas from new sources was not assessed before approvals were granted.
It believes both the emissions impact on climate change and the impact on a treasure-rove of rock art at the Burrup site should have been assessed.
Mr Verstegen said the approvals were made by retrospectively changing the description of the Pluto and North West Shelf LNG processing facilities in Ministerial Statements for these projects, with the changes made by then EPA chairman Tom Hatton at the request of Woodside.
It defies belief that approvals have been secretly issued for one of the worlds most polluting fossil fuel projects with no assessment of environmental impacts, he said.
By Woodsides own numbers, these changes could allow gas processing that is estimated to produce around six billion tonnes of carbon pollution over the life of the hub projects roughly four times the pollution of the proposed Adani coal mine.
Environmental Defenders Office lawyer Tim Macknay said the Conservation Council was applying for judicial review of the approvals.
Due to the lack of assessment, the public now has no idea how much gas will be processed through these facilities, nor the overall amount of emissions likely to be facilitated by these projects, he said.
We will argue the government made an error by not applying the correct test in deciding whether the changes might have environmental impacts requiring further assessments.
Our client has engaged in good faith with the EPA and Woodside for over a year on this issue, and is now left with no choice but to apply to the Supreme Court in their stand for due process and transparency.
Mr Coleman said that at all times Woodside has complied with regulatory requirements and environmental processes in seeking and receiving approvals.
We intend to vigorously defend our position. The CCWA (conservation council) is resorting to a legal challenge a year-and-a-half after the approvals were granted,” he said.
“Their action will cost taxpayers money and flies in the face of the Environmental Protection Authoritys independent assessment.
We strongly support the State governments and the EPAs processes.”
The Australian Financial Review revealed in November that Chinese players were forced to pull out of Woodside’s process to sell a stake in Scarborough amid the diplomatic hostilities between Australia and China.
The WA government said it was aware of the Conservation Council’s application for judicial review of Woodsides Burrup Hub proposals.
“As the matter is before the courts, it is not appropriate to provide any further comment,” a spokesman said.

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