Community and legal groups have welcomed moves by the Queensland Department of Environment and Science (DES) to pursue further legal action against the former head of Linc Energy over the environmental damage caused at the company’s underground coal gasification (UCG) site on Queensland’s Western Downs.
The company’s founder Peter Bond was required to rehabilitate dams and other land at the site, and provide a $5.5 million bank guarantee in line with an Environment Protection Order (EPO) issued by DES in 2016. The EPO was issued under the state’s Chain of Responsibility legislation.
However, according to information obtained recently by EDO Queensland from the Qld Public Register, the department believes Mr Bond has willfully contravened the EPO, and on December 12 last year, filed a complaint and summons for two offences contrary to s361 (1) of the Environmental Protection Act 1994.
The penalty for an offence under s361 (1) is a maximum of 6,250 penalty units ($815,937.50) or 5 years imprisonment.
Lock the Gate spokesperson Carmel Flint said the revelations were yet more evidence that the Linc Energy UCG venture near Chinchilla had been a disaster for local landholders.
“This sorry saga is continuing nearly a year after Linc Energy was fined a record $4.5 million for serious environmental damage at the Western Downs site,” she said.
“It seems unlikely that the Qld Government will recover any funds from Linc Energy either to pay that hefty fine or rehabilitate the site, after they went into liquidation and disclaimed ownership.
“That’s why this proceeding against Mr Bond is so significant - because the QLD taxpayer is facing ever diminishing opportunities to ensure they do not end up footing the bill for this environment catastrophe.
“What’s disturbing is that the South Australian Government is now allowing a UCG venture at Leigh Creek, indicating they have not learned anything from the Linc Energy debacle” she said.
EDO Qld CEO and solicitor Jo-Anne Bragg said: “We congratulate the Queensland Government for using these enforcement tools to try to reclaim the millions in tax-payer dollars that Peter Bond and Linc Energy have cost the State.”
“The Chain of Responsibility laws are a crucial pathway to ensuring those responsible for environmental damage cannot dodge their obligations and pass the costs of their actions onto the taxpayer.”
“The Queensland Government has always used these laws sparingly. Until now it hasn’t been clear the state would bring the full force of the law to bear on those who have breached it.”
“This move gives us confidence that the laws will be used as they were intended – to hold the right people responsible for environmental damage caused by the projects they are involved in.”
“In this case, the cost to the State in proving the environmental harm in this case and prosecuting Linc Energy over its actions has been enormous. It’s time for Peter Bond to pay up."
The EPO issued to Mr Bond is available here.
Information provided by the Queensland Public Register to EDO Queensland, via email on 20 February 2019:
“As described in email correspondence dated both 18 January 2019 and 25 January, the department has undertaken a search of the Public Register and can confirm that the department has issued a letter dated 23 November 2018 and that the letter only relates to non-compliance with requirements B4 and B23 of the EPO.
As described in the email dated 25 January 2019, the letter states that the Department believes that Mr Bond has contravened an EPO contrary to section 361 of the EP Act, the letter does not refer to ‘wilful’.
On 12 December 2018, the department filed a complaint and summons against Mr Bond for two offences contrary to section 361(1) of the EP Act.”