The State Government has welcomed the $4.5 million in fines and convictions recorded against gas company Linc Energy Limited – the highest penalty imposed under Queensland law for environmental offending.
The court heard that soil and groundwater were contaminated in Linc’s underground coal gasification (UCG) trial operations near Chinchilla.
“Today’s sentence sends a strong message that the Government and environmental regulator is committed to thoroughly investigating and prosecuting allegations of serious harm,” Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said.
“This was the biggest pollution event in Queensland’s history and I congratulate the Department of Environment and Science on the excellent work it has done in coordinating and managing what was the state’s largest environmental investigation.”
She was commenting after the Brisbane District Court imposed a total fine of $4.5 million for five offences of wilfully and unlawfully causing serious environmental harm, over a period of seven years, in contravention of the Environmental Protection Act 1994. Convictions were also recorded against the company.
Given that the company’s liquidators chose not to defend the proceedings, the prosecution case was required to be ‘strictly proved’ meaning that a significant volume of documentary evidence needed to be tendered, and approximately 80 witnesses needed to be called, Ms Enoch said.
Five former Linc Energy executives have been charged over the operation of the UCG site in Chinchilla and are due to face a committal hearing in the Brisbane Magistrates Court in July.