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Anti-fracking activists' Beetaloo court battle begins

Neve Brissenden -

An anti-fracking group has begun legal action against the Northern Territory government's decision to allow exploration in the Beetaloo Basin.

Anti-fracking protesters have mobilised across the nation as a landmark case challenging the Beetaloo Basin's environmental approvals began in the Northern Territory Supreme Court.

The Central Australian Frack Free Alliance (CAFFA) launched legal proceedings against former NT environment minister Lauren Moss in February.

The activist group says Ms Moss did not properly consider the environmental impact of allowing Tamboran Resources to dig 12 exploratory wells in the basin.

CAFFA is arguing that Tamboran's exploration will lead to unforeseen environmental impacts and make way for further fracking in the territory.

Alliance spokesperson Hannah Ekin said the former minister failed to consider how the exploration could facilitate the drilling of thousands more wells igniting a "climate-bomb".

"We will argue that the then minister should have considered the significant climate impacts posed by this exploration fracking project along with the much greater volume of greenhouse gas emissions from the production projects it will facilitate," Ms Ekin said.

"But she didn't, and that's why we are taking the government to court."

In the Supreme Court in Darwin on Tuesday, Chief Justice Michael Grant began hearing arguments from the anti-fracking alliance.

Represented by the Environmental Defenders Office, CAFFA's lawyer Emrys Nekvapil said the environmental impacts of the fracking project likely to result from the exploration were legally required to be taken into account.

"The sorts of environmental impacts one assesses are by reference to an activity not conflated with or confined to an activity," he told the court.

"They may be ... downstream impacts and they may be cumulative impacts."

Mr Nekvapil argued that Tamboran's own environmental assessments identified risks to groundwater and weed management which would extend beyond the project's end.

"It's clear that the long-term effects are effects of the activity even though they will last for many years after," he said.

"Once you approve the thing and it goes ahead, it's only then that you will really find out what the actual impacts are, and it's too late to stop."

Mr Nekvapil said all environmental protection legislation requires forecasting of risks beyond the project.

The anti-fracking protesters who spent the morning demonstrating on the Supreme Court steps filled out the courtroom during the hearing.

Thousands of kilometres south, a sister group of anti-fracking protesters demonstrated outside Tamboran Resources' AGM in Sydney, with some travelling from the NT to have their voices heard.

Tamboran Resources owns 100 per cent of the exploratory permit in the Beetaloo Basin, bought from Origin Energy in November last year.

The NT government announced in May, that the onshore gas project could begin based on findings by CSIRO's Gas Industry Social and Environmental Research Alliance (GISERA).

However, last week's senate inquiry heard from independent researchers who said the CSIRO's estimations were wrong.

"We're looking at a massive increase in emissions both here and overseas from both fracking the Beetaloo and the associated Middle Arm LNG project," Bill Hare, CEO of global climate science and policy institute Climate Analytics, said.

"The GISERA analysis provided to the Northern Territory and federal governments was flat out wrong."

Submissions to the senate inquiry on the Middle Arm Industrial Precinct close on Tuesday, with a report due on February 28

Neve Brissenden - AAP


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