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MEDIA RELEASE: LANDMARK COURT CASE AGAINST THE FEDERAL RESOURCES MINISTER TO BE HEARD TODAY

02.11.2021

MEDIA RELEASE: Landmark court case against the Federal Resources Minister to be heard today

On the 2nd and 3rd of November the Federal Court in Sydney will hear a case brought against the Federal Resources Minister Keith Pitt by the Environment Centre of the Northern Territory, represented by the Environmental Defender’s Office.

The Environment Centre NT are taking the Minister to court over his decision to grant $21million of public funds to Imperial Oil and Gas for exploratory fracking in the Beetaloo Basin.

A recent report by Reputex suggests that proceeding with the full development of the fracking industry in the Beetaloo Basin could generate 1.4 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions over a 20 year period. Other reports suggest that it could increase Australia’s emissions by more than 20%.

This is a test case for climate litigation, with the Environment Centre NT arguing that the Minister should have considered the climate change risks of fracking the Beetaloo and associated economic risks, including those relating to Australia’s ability to meet its Paris Agreement targets, before deciding to award the grant.

At a directions hearing the Federal Court criticised Minister Pitt for failing to notify the Environment Centre NT that the grant agreements had been entered, despite requests for the Minister to do so, stating that there had been “no satisfactory explanation” for his actions and that the decision “did not reflect well on the Minister”.

The co-director of the Environment Centre NT Kirsty Howey stated:

“The impacts of climate change are already being felt in the Northern Territory, and will hit remote communities and lands hardest. The Northern Territory is likely to experience extreme temperatures, erratic rainfall, worse cyclones and sea level rises that undermine the very habitability of the Northern Territory.

“Right now, nations from around the world are meeting in Glasgow to discuss global efforts to mitigate climate catastrophe and commit to emissions reductions targets. Yet in Australia, our government wants to accelerate new projects that will increase Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions by handing out public funding to fossil fuel companies.

“Only today the Grattan Institute said that Australia had little prospect of meeting its 2050 targets under the Paris Agreement if projects like fracking in the Beetaloo Basin proceed, and that there is no justification for subsidising Northern Territory onshore gas development with public money.

“This case is a landmark opportunity for judicial scrutiny of taxpayer-funded grants to the very projects that could ultimately lead to Australia blowing the carbon budget it requires to meet its Paris Agreement commitments.

“We will argue that the law requires decision-makers to consider the risks of climate change and the associated economic risks of opening up new fossil fuel reserves, including in relation to Australia’s international obligations, before public money is granted to facilitate new fossil fuel developments.

“We are standing up for the rights of Territorians and all Australians to a safe climate and a liveable future by challenging Minister Pitt’s decision.”

For further comment, contact Kirsty Howey, 0488 928 811

ENDS