Linc Energy, the company being prosecuted by the Queensland Government for polluting large areas of the western Darling Downs with its underground coal gasification (UCG) project, went into administration today.
The company at present has a woefully inadequate rehabilitation bond with the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection and, by going into administration, it will avoid having to pay the increased bond (called financial assurance) the Department is wanting it to pay.
They will also avoid having to pay any fines incurred from a likely successful prosecution against them for causing significant environmental harm, which could be up to $56 million, and will also avoid having to contest any potential class actions by farmers affected by Linc's UCG project.
Lock the Gate president, Drew Hutton, has called this move by Linc an outrageous abuse of the state's environmental protection system, on a par with the recent revelations about the lack of financial assurance for the Queensland Nickel plant at Yabulu.
"If Linc is found guilty for the Hopeland pollution by the court, it is now unlikely the fine, which could be anything up to $56 million, will ever be paid" Mr Hutton said.
"This raises all sorts of terrifying questions for the people affected by this company. Who will now pay for the enormous damage to the soils and water in the area around the Linc Energy plant at Hopeland, near Chinchilla?"
"How will local farmers now have any hope that their area can be cleaned up so they can safely farm again?
"Queenslanders will see this sort of thing from coal mining companies again and again in the coming period as they go into administration to avoid having to pay the full amount they should pay the state to ensure they clean up their site before they go."
The Queensland Government's Chain of Responsibility amendments to the Environmental Protection Act, currently before the Parliament, would make it much more difficult for this to happen.
However, the Chain of Responsibility Bill is still in committee and the LNP has indicated it will vote against it when it comes before the House.
"The old Country Party would never have betrayed farmers like this," Mr Hutton said.
"I call on those LNP members who still care about rural people to cross the floor and vote for the bill, especially the Member for Warrego who represents the Hopeland area" he said.