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Legal challenge forces Woodside to halt undersea testing

Raelene Cooper has won an injunction to stop Woodside's seismic testing until after the court case.

Raelene Cooper has won an injunction to stop Woodside's seismic testing until after the court case. Photo: AAP

Woodside Energy will have to suspend undersea survey work off the West Australian coast while a challenge over its legality is under way.

The Federal Court on Thursday granted Mardudhunera woman Raelene Cooper an interlocutory injunction, ordering the oil and gas producer not to carry out seismic testing for its Scarborough gas project.

Justice Craig Colvin also brought the trial, which was scheduled for late October, forward by a month, with the exact details for the hearing related to Woodside’s environmental plan yet to be determined.

Cooper filed a legal challenge in August amid concerns about the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority’s approval process, saying it was unlawful and she had not been properly consulted as required.

She is deeply concerned about the seismic survey’s potential impact on songlines and the culturally significant animals connected to them.

“I’m elated and very grateful and appreciative of the court with its decision today. I’m looking forward to an opportunity to be heard,” Cooper said after the decision.

“My ancient culture is being attacked. Woodside has not conducted proper consultation with traditional custodians about the impacts of their seismic blasting on our culture.”

Cooper said seismic blasting could threaten marine species inhabiting the waters, including whales.

“These majestic and graceful marine mammals carry our songlines from one part of Country to another, they are documented on our munda (rocks), and they are our dreaming stories that I hold,” she said.

The massive Scarborough field is located in the Carnarvon Basin, about 375 kilometres off WA’s north-west coast.

The $16.5 billion gas project will be connected to new offshore facilities by a 430-kilometre pipeline to the onshore Pluto liquid natural gas facility, near Karratha.

The development phase will include the installation of a floating production unit with eight wells drilled initially and 13 wells drilled over the life of the gas field.

Woodside expects to process about five to eight million tonnes of gas per year, which Cooper’s lawyers from the Environmental Defenders Office previously said would result in the release of an estimated 878 million tonnes of carbon dioxide over the project’s lifetime.

Seismic surveying is a geophysical technique that uses vibrations or seismic waves to investigate rocks up to 60 kilometres below Earth’s surface.

Scientists use the imagery produced to interpret geological features in the crust and to help define areas of mineral, groundwater or energy resource potential.

Woodside has been contacted for comment.

-AAP

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