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Woodside green light for seismic testing off Pilbara coast

Giovanni Torre -

Woodside has again been given permission to conduct seismic testing for its Scarborough project in northern Western Australia after an earlier approval had been ruled invalid by the Federal Court.

Mardudhunera woman Raelene Cooper had successfully argued the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) had acted beyond the law by granting the approval on the condition Woodside conduct further consultations with Traditional Owners, including with herself.

This decision forced Woodside to put works on hold while it undertook the consultation.

The resultant plan was submitted to the NOPSEMA for approval on October 19, the ABC reports, and was approved on Friday, 1 December, with the potential for the testing to begin as early as Saturday.

Seismic testing uses blasts of air fired at the ocean floor to identify gas reserves. Some scientists have raised concerns about the potential for it to have impacts on ocean life.

A Woodside representative said the company had "dedicated significant time and effort to consult on all of these activities and will now focus on completing the approved work".

"The Australian Energy Market Operator has been clear that Western Australia may experience a gas shortfall from 2027. The stresses seen in recent years in Australia's east coast energy market are a clear demonstration of the importance of maintaining reliable and affordable gas supply," they said.

In a statement issued Saturday, Ms Cooper said she was informed late on Friday night that Woodside have been given new approvals by NOPSEMA to "commence drilling and to start seismic blasting as early as today".

"I am heartbroken, devastated and furious at this latest betrayal and I am considering my legal options over the weekend," she said.

Greenpeace Australia Pacific senior campaigner Sophie McNeill told the ABC the organisation was deeply concerned by the development.

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