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ECNT Response to announcement of Minister Keith Pitt

Beetaloo Cooperative Drilling Program

The Environment Centre NT (ECNT) refers to the media release of Minister Keith Pitt today, which states his intention to proceed with the Beetaloo Cooperative Drilling Program, notwithstanding that ECNT has challenged the lawfulness of this Program in the Federal Court of Australia.

ECNT’s court proceedings challenge the lawfulness of Minister Keith Pitt’s decision to grant up to $21 million of taxpayer money to Imperial Oil and Gas, a subsidiary of the publicly listed Empire Energy.

ECNT’s proceedings argue that the Minister was required to make reasonable inquiries into a range of matters before giving Imperial millions of dollars of taxpayer money, including how exploitation of the Beetaloo sub-basin would impact climate change and Australia’s ability to meet its Paris Agreement obligations.

The court proceedings are ongoing.

Kirsty Howey, Co-Director of ECNT said:

“ECNT notes the announcement today that Minister Keith Pitt has decided to proceed with the Beetaloo Cooperative Drilling Program, notwithstanding that the lawfulness of this very program is currently being challenged in the Federal Court.

“ECNT’s case raises important questions as to the lawfulness of the Beetaloo Cooperative Drilling Program, including the grant of up to $21 million to Imperial Oil and Gas by Minister Pitt, and the appropriateness of directing public money direct to gas companies to accelerate fossil fuel extraction in the Northern Territory.

“This is a case of immense public importance.  All Australians are invested in ensuring that taxpayers’ money is used wisely and with all the consequences being fully considered.  Granting $21 million to a private fossil fuel company should only be done after all care is taken to examine the impacts of climate change, the environment and the community.  It is not apparent to ECNT that this has occurred.

“ECNT notes that the case is still ongoing, and has not yet been heard by the Federal Court.

“We would have expected  - and had requested - Minister Pitt to delay gifting money under the program until these important legal questions of public importance are determined.”

“The question of whether the Minister should, in the context of ongoing Federal Court proceedings that challenge the lawfulness of his program to gift millions of dollars of taxpayer money to fossil fuel companies, continue to hand out that money under that program is one only he can answer.

“If the Minister wishes to proceed with the Beetaloo Cooperative Drilling Program, despite a cloud hanging over the legality of the program and the grants which are proposed to be made under it, that is a matter for him.

“ECNT intends to continue to prosecute this case in the public interest, and for future generations of Australians.”

Media contact: Kirsty Howey 0488 928 811


Download the media release here.