No ‘magic barrier’ to stop pollution
No ‘magic barrier’ to stop pollution Alasdair Young

Concerns Linc Energy may never pay fines

UPDATE: IN THE aftermath of the Linc pollution scandal, environmental activists found some common ground with the LNP, both blasting the Government on Friday.

Linc was fined a record $4.5 million for causing environmental damage with its underground coal gasification activities at Chinchilla.

"This is a mess of Labor's creation," the LNP's Deb Frecklington said on Friday.

"They should never have approved this project."

Ms Frecklington said the LNP welcomed the district court decision but "no amount" of money could make up for the fact "Labor got it wrong".

Lock the Gate alliance spokeswoman Vicki Perrin said Friday's judgment sent "a strong message" to other mining companies in Queensland.

But the alliance called for tougher standards to prevent a repeat of the disaster.

"The Queensland Government needs to stop approving every mining and gas project that comes before it, and set higher standards in the early stages before we end up with another mess like this," Ms Perrin said.

Lock the Gate also said it was "deeply concerned" about Linc Energy's ability to pay the $4.5 million, given the firm was in liquidation."

Ms Perrin urged Queensland Government to pursue Linc executives through "chain of responsibility" laws.

The laws allow environmental obligations to be enforced against "related persons" of financially-troubled companies, to ensure communities do not bear clean-up costs.

Environment minister Leeanne Enoch confirmed the fine was the highest penalty ever imposed for environmental offending in Queensland.

Ms Enoch said Linc had caused "the biggest pollution event in Queensland's history".

She said high standards already existed, and congratulated the Department of Environment for the investigation into Linc.

"We have some of the highest environmental standards in the world and Queensland has a strong record when it comes to environmental compliance."

EARLIER: POLLUTING failed energy company Linc has been fined $4.5million for what a judge has dubbed "ecological vandalism".

Jurors last month found the failed coal gasification company guilty of causing serious environmental harm at Chinchilla between 2007 and 2013.

On Friday, prosecutor Ralph Devlin told Brisbane District Court Linc acted in a "devious and cavalier way" at its Chinchilla site for commercial gain.

He said the company behaved as if a "magic barrier" confined contamination within limits of its mineral development licence.

Judge Michael Shanahan said Linc's actions were "ecological vandalism".

The damage Linc Energy caused to the environment and local landowners cannot be quantified, Judge Shanahan said.

He said the company, in liquidation, ignored "obvious risks" for the pursuit of profit.

The underground coal gasification company covered up a phenomenon known as Mr Bubbles with "crusher dust" when a regulator visited the Chinchilla site, Judge Shanahan said.

The bubbling on the surface was one of several problems at the site, along with risks to groundwater, and the lateral spread of toxins underground.

The judge said Linc was aware of widespread well failures and gas bubbling, and its response was repeatedly inadequate.

Apart from the fine, Judge Shanahan was asked to consider a compensation order.

He said he was "not prepared to guess the actual costs" of damage at the site.

The court heard the UCG mess could cost tens of millions of dollars to clean up, over years or possibly decades.

Last year, it was reported the environmental contamination bill could reach almost $80million - and taxpayers would have to fork out.

Linc Energy's former chief executive Peter Bond last month told The Australian the lengthy district court trial was meaningless. -NewsRegional


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