WOODSIDE'S $35 billion Browse development has been hit with fresh legal action to overturn environmental approvals for the project because of conflicts of interest on the West Australian Environmental Protection Agency board.
|Conflicted EPA board members on Country with Goolarabooloo 2011|
If successful, the action could force the Browse joint venture partners to restart environmental approvals for the James Price Point development.
The court action could lead to another delay for the controversial gas project that has split local and indigenous groups in the Broome community.
Wilderness Society national director Lyndon Schneiders said the James Price Point approval showed the "folly" of the BCA approach. "JPP is a case study of how not to build public confidence in the capacity of state governments to be entrusted with the protection of the natural and cultural environment," he said.
The EPA's approval for the Browse development has been mired in controversy due to declared conflicts of interest by board members in relation to the project.
The Browse report was released by EPA chairman Paul Vogel, acting alone after the other four board members were required to stand aside due to conflicts of interest. The West Australian Environment Minister's approval was based on Mr Vogel's recommendation alone. The court action claims three of the conflicted EPA board members had extensively deliberated on the Browse LNG precinct at James Price Point before being stood down only at the end of the process.
In a briefing on the court proceedings, Mr Hunter and the Wilderness Society of WA said the EPA was set up to be independent and avoid conflicts of interests by requiring that at least three non-conflicted board members were needed to make a decision.
The Supreme Court action is seeking orders to quash the approval and to quash the assessment report for any use in any further approval.
The Wilderness Society said the failure of the EPA and West Australian government to follow proper process had placed legal uncertainty over next year's June 30 deadline for the Browse final investment decision.