MEDIA RELEASE: FEDERAL COURT CHALLENGE TO GOVERNMENT’S $21M BEETALOO DRILLING GRANT
The Environment Centre Northern Territory (ECNT), represented by the EDO, today filed urgent proceedings in the Federal Court of Australia questioning the lawfulness of the Commonwealth Minister for Resource’s decision to grant up to $21 million of taxpayer money to Imperial Oil and Gas.
Earlier this month, Minister Keith Pitt issued a media release announcing the first grants from the Beetaloo Cooperative Drilling Program would go to Imperial Oil and Gas to support three new exploration wells to “to help accelerate development of gas projects in the Northern Territory.” Imperial Oil and Gas is a wholly owned subsidiary of the publicly listed Empire Energy.
ECNT’s proceeding argues that the Minister was required to make reasonable inquiries into a range of matters before giving Imperial a large amount 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.
Co-Director of ECNT, Dr Kirsty Howey stated, “We want to see taxpayers money 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 on climate change, the environment and the community.”
“The law requires the Minister to be satisfied that the expenditure is a proper use of money having made reasonable inquiries. We say that means inquiries into the risks of a heating climate if the heart of the Northern Territory was opened up to fracking.”
The Court documents argue that Minister Pitt didn’t make reasonable inquiries about climate change risks, transition risks to a zero carbon economy, and risks associated with failing to meet the targets of the Paris Agreement.
“It’s not apparent from the available public documents that the Minister made any inquiries about the climate change risks of gas developments in the Beetaloo”, added Dr Howey.
The ECNT has asked that the Minister not take any further steps in relation to the grant of taxpayer funds under the Program until the validity of his decisions are determined by the Court.
Dr Kirsty Howey, Co-Director ECNT 0488 928 811
Shar Molloy, Co-Director ECNT 0488 112 350
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