Scarborough is a proposed new gas project off the north-west coast of Western Australia that would cause an estimated 1.37 billion tonnes of greenhouse pollution over the next 25 years. Although the gas would be extracted off the coast of WA and much of it burned overseas, it would affect the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland by fuelling climate change, which is causing repeated coral bleaching events on the reef. Scarborough has never been approved under Australia’s federal environment protection law - the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth) (EPBC Act) - because offshore gas and oil projects are assessed in a streamlined process by the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) and exempt from the EPBC Act’s operation. However, that exemption does not apply if an offshore project is likely to have a significant impact on the World or National Heritage values of the Great Barrier Reef. The applicant, the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) believes the greenhouse gas emissions that will result from the Scarborough project are likely to have a significant impact on the Great Barrier Reef. Accordingly, the ACF will argue this means the project should not be allowed to proceed unless the project – and its impacts on the reef – are approved under the EPBC Act.
At Issue: Whether the Scarborough gas project should be subject to approval under Australia’s national environment law.