Premier Colin Barnett has backed WA's environmental chief despite his role at the centre of a humiliating legal defeat that has derailed the Government's Kimberley gas hub hopes.
In a judgment that could have wide-ranging implications for the State's environmental assessment process, the Supreme Court yesterday demolished as invalid the approval given to the Browse LNG precinct.
The ruling upheld an appeal by the Wilderness Society against the approval, granted by former environment minister Bill Marmion in November acting on advice from the Environmental Protection Authority.
Mr Barnett immediately signalled the Government would resubmit its application for the project, insisting the ruling reflected procedural deficiencies, rather than scientific ones.
"I don't give up and this is so important," he said. "All the environmental evidence and surveys and research has been done over many, many years."
As Mr Marmion distanced himself from the judgment by saying he relied on the advice of EPA chairman Paul Vogel, the Wilderness Society claimed it threw into doubt the validity of other approvals.
Key to the Browse appeal was a claim the EPA's recommendations were tainted because they had been influenced by board members who had conflicts of interests.
All but one of the watchdog's five-member board - Dr Vogel the exception - had to be removed from deliberations, but two of them continued to participate until just four months before the EPA released its final report in July last year.
Chief Justice Wayne Martin agreed the EPA's report had been unacceptably compromised and this meant that neither it nor the minister had validly discharged their duties.
"When the powers of the EPA with respect to Browse LNG … were delegated to Dr Vogel on July 5, 2012, he did not himself undertake an assessment of the proposal," Justice Martin wrote.
"Rather (he) adopted, in substance, a report which had been prepared during the course of the assessment process which was (invalidated) by the participation of the disqualified members."
Environmental Defender's Office principal solicitor Patrick Pearlman said Dr Vogel should have removed conflicted members from Browse deliberations and delegated a separate panel, but he failed to do so.
The Premier yesterday maintained he had confidence in Dr Vogel and Mr Marmion despite calls for them to be sacked.
The ruling is a major blow to Mr Barnett and threatens to add long delays to any development of James Price Point, which he wants as a supply base for the floating LNG industries.
Opposition Leader Mark McGowan said ever since Mr Barnett intervened, the project had been a "disaster".