The legal challenge to a Federal Government decision granting $21 million to Imperial Oil & Gas for gas exploration in the Beetaloo sub-basin has been heard in the Federal Court of Australia.   

Lawyers from the Environmental Defenders Office, acting on behalf of The Environment Centre NT, will argue that the decision of the Minister for Resources and Water to grant the funding was unlawful and invalid.  

EDO Managing Lawyer (Safe Climate), Brendan Dobbie said:  

“This case concerns, amongst other things, whether the Minister’s decision to grant $21 million to Imperial Oil & Gas was made lawfully and in accordance with the requirements of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act

“Our client will argue that the Act requires the Minister to make reasonable inquiries before approving expenditure of this kind, to ensure that the expenditure would be a proper use of public money.  

“Our client says that the Minister failed to make reasonable inquiries as he did not consider the risks posed by climate change if gas reserves in the Beetaloo sub-basin are exploited, including economic risks associated with the global economy‘s rapid transition away from fossil fuel use as the world strives to meet the goal of the Paris Agreement. 

“This is an important case coming at a time when world leaders are meeting in Glasgow to discuss the need for rapid and deep reductions in global emissions. It is essential that proper procedure is followed in government decisions to grant public monies to the fossil fuel industry.  

“Imperial Oil & Gas is just one of a number of fossil fuel companies looking to explore for methane gas in the Beetaloo sub-basin.” 

“The size of the prospective gas reserve in the Beetaloo is approximately 200,000 petajoules according to government reports. Estimates suggest that if just 10% of that gas is ultimately used it would result in emissions equivalent to 1 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide. This would result in a very significant increase to global emissions at a time when both the IPCC and International Energy Agency have indicated that there is no room for any new fossil fuel developments if we are to meet the goal of the Paris Agreement. 

“Given the impact that the development of the Beetaloo sub-basin would have on the world’s climate, it is extremely important that government decisions to use public money to facilitate this development are made according to law.  

“We will argue on behalf of our client that in this case that did not occur.”