The Barnett Government is bracing for a setback in its quest to develop a gas hub in the Kimberley ahead of a decision today on whether its environmental approvals for the contentious project were lawful.
More than a year after former environment minister Bill Marmion endorsed the proposed gas hub at James Price Point, Supreme Court Chief Justice Wayne Martin will this morning hand down his judgment on an appeal against the approval.
It is understood the Government gives itself only a 30 per cent chance of winning the case.
The Wilderness Society launched the appeal after it emerged the entire board of the Environmental Protection Authority, except chairman Paul Vogel, had to remove themselves from deliberations over conflict of interests.
The EPA's report, hastily prepared by Dr Vogel alone, recommended the gas hub go ahead.
Although Woodside Petroleum and its Browse project partners walked away from the gas hub proposal in April, an adverse ruling by Justice Martin would be a major blow to Premier Colin Barnett.
Mr Barnett, who long championed the project, vowed in the aftermath of Woodside's decision to push ahead with plans to acquire land at James Price Point.
He wants the site as a supply base for the floating LNG vessels that would develop the Browse gas offshore.
A defeat could reset the environmental approvals process and significantly delay Mr Barnett's acquisition plans.
During two days of hearings in June, Justice Martin queried whether the process leading up to Mr Marmion's decision had been unacceptably compromised by the EPA's deliberations.
Two of the EPA board's five members ruled themselves out in 2009 over conflicts but it was not until 2011 that another two disclosed their interests and February 2012 that they were removed from the process.
Questioning the State's lawyers during the hearings, Justice Martin suggested Dr Vogel's conclusions, and therefore Mr Marmion's, had been tainted by earlier decisions taken by the EPA board.
"If it's tainted you have got to start again," he said. "If the assessment has not been done in accordance with the Act . . . you say 'well, unfortunately as a result of errors made by Dr Vogel . . . and members of the authority as to the extent to which they disclosed, the process is miscarried. We cannot rely on the fruit of the poisoned tree'."