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Environmental advocates expand Federal Court case against Santos

On 25 August, the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR) filed new and more detailed allegations against the Asia-Pacific oil and gas producer Santos in regard to the company’s alleged greenwashing. 

user iconJess Feyder 30 August 2022 The Bar
Environmental advocates expand Federal Court case against Santos
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Last year, the ACCR commenced proceedings in the Federal Court, alleging that Santos had breached the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) and the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) by engaging in misleading or deceptive conduct regarding its “clean energy” claims and its net zero plan in its 2020 Annual Report

This was the first court case in the world to challenge the veracity of a company’s net zero emissions target. The case raises questions about the role of carbon capture and storage (CCS) and blue hydrogen in the transition to zero emissions.

The ACCR has now filed to expand its case to include alleged greenwashing in Santos’ 2021 Investor Day Briefing and 2021 Climate Change Report, following additional information that was produced by Santos in the litigation discovery process. 


Lawyers from the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) are acting on behalf of the ACCR and have filed the amended pleadings.

The additional allegations state that Santos’ representations that hydrogen produced from natural gas with CCS (blue hydrogen) is “clean” or “zero emissions” constitute misleading or deceptive conduct. 

They also state that Santos’ net zero representations failed to disclose that: 

  • Its net zero plan does not account for expected production and/or emissions growth from oil and gas exploration opportunities beyond 2025;
  • The “CCS Expansion” portion of the net zero plan reflects offsets that Santos will apparently seek to procure — it does not represent reductions in Santos’ own emissions;
  • The “Hydrogen with CCS” portion of the net zero plan also reflects offsets that Santos will apparently seek to procure. It does not represent reductions in Santos’ emissions, but instead depends upon Santos receiving offsets for reducing its customers’ emissions through the sale of blue hydrogen;
  • The plan also assumes that Santos would blend 30 to 50 per cent hydrogen into the natural gas network, whereas Santos had no reasonable basis for assuming it could blend more than 10 per cent.
Further, in representing “natural” gas as a “clean” fuel or energy source, and blue hydrogen as “zero emissions” or “clean”, ACCR claims that Santos engaged in conduct that was liable to mislead the public as to the nature, characteristics, suitability and quality of Santos’ goods, contrary to section 33 of the ACL.

Commenting on the proceedings, Brynn O’Brien, executive director of ACCR, stated: “We allege that Santos misled investors and the public about its plan to achieve ‘net zero’ by 2040 and to produce ‘zero-emissions’ blue hydrogen. 

“The documents produced by Santos have heightened our concerns that these plans lacked sufficient detail to be put into the market.

“Investors rely on company disclosures and have a right to complete, open and honest information relating to a company they are investing, or considering investing, in.

“We look forward to the court’s review and adjudication of Santos’ conduct.”

Zoe Bush, senior solicitor at the EDO, commented: “About 70 per cent of the ASX200’s market capitalisation is now covered by net-zero claims. 

“As companies rush to convince the market that they are part of the global energy transition, full and frank disclosure has never been more important.

“There are serious questions about the future of the gas industry in the face of the global energy transition. 

“Gas companies such as Santos increasingly pin their hopes on carbon capture and storage and blue hydrogen to remain financially viable during that transition. 

“It is critical that companies are transparent about the greenhouse gas emissions associated with these processes, and their risks and uncertainties.

“Misleading information can impede an effective and timely response to the climate crisis. 

“It may also leave investors vulnerable to major losses and potentially unfairly skew the market away from companies that are acting responsibly.” 

The ACCR isn’t able to share the Amended Concise Statement due to Santos’ opposition to the document being made freely available on the Federal Court website.