Resources Minister Madeleine King has excused herself from decision-making on the contentious Petroleum Export Permit 11 (PEP-11).

Ms King says her previous criticisms could influence the project’s judicial review. 

The move casts fresh light on former Prime Minister Scott Morrison's controversial handling of the same project.

PEP-11, a proposal to explore and potentially develop gas reserves located more than 20 kilometres off the coast of New South Wales (NSW), has faced immense opposition due to potential environmental impacts and concerns from coastal communities. 

The project plans to span an area between Newcastle and Wollongong, directly affecting the Central Coast's marine and economic health.

Before the 2022 federal election, Scott Morrison secretly assumed the responsibilities of the then Resources Minister Keith Pitt and revoked the exploration permit for PEP-11. 

This action was later challenged and overturned in the Federal Court, which cited Morrison’s “implacable opposition” to the project and demonstrated bias in his decision-making process.

Minister King’s decision to step down is based on her previous public opposition to the project, where she criticised Morrison's failure to act against PEP-11. 

“He knows this project will put our coastline, our marine life, and our economy at risk,” King had stated, emphasising the ecological and economic stakes tied to the project.

King's withdrawal has shifted the responsibility to Industry Minister Ed Husic, who will now oversee the federal government’s decision on PEP-11. 

This change comes alongside the NSW government's legislative efforts to ban offshore oil and gas exploration, aiming to stop the project permanently.

Even with NSW’s attempt to stop it, the project could still proceed as it would be located in Commonwealth waters. Proponents say gas could be shipped to shore without the need for a pipeline through state waters.

Despite these setbacks, the project's backers, including Advent Energy, remain determined to advance their plans, now focusing on transporting gas through proposed import terminals rather than constructing pipelines.