Govt takes on Linc over alleged damage to cropping land

UPDATE: The legal battle between Linc Energy and the State Government regarding alleged "irreversible" damage to cropping land near Chinchilla began in Dalby Magistrates Court today.

The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection filed the complaint in the Dalby Magistrates Court in June alleging Linc Energy wilfully and unlawfully caused serious environmental harm - another four charges are still outstanding.

The proceedings began with prosecution lawyer Ralph Devlin QC proposing to take the full two weeks of available time to respond to new evidence in an "orderly fashion."

Defence lawyer Robert Bain QC brought up issues around insufficient exploration of witness testimony from three key witnesses.

Mr Devlin said he had not been made aware in any detail of one of the witnesses, an industrial engineer and formerly a specialist consultant to Linc Energy.

He was also vocal about the introduction of what he believed to be completely new information in open court, questioning the record of their correspondence.

"Can you make it clear that you're saying these things for the first time? I want correspondence referred to, in detail, because it looks as if the record reads as if the Crown has overlooked this," Mr Devlin said.

"I want him (Bain) to name specifically what has been said that even resembles what's been said in open court.

"I'm happy to look at it, happy to apply the decision of the court, but I don't want to be misquoted as to the state of my knowledge."

The committal hearing, if it does run the full fortnight of allotted time, will not finish until November 9.

The report which sparked the case was commissioned by the Queensland Government.

It focussed on Linc Energy's experimental plant near Chinchilla, west of Toowoomba, which it claimed caused "irreversible" damage to strategic cropping land.

The report claimed government workers were hospitalised with suspected gas poisoning during soil testing in March.

The State Government report will not be released until next month, which has angered landholders living near the Linc Energy site.

Hopeland Community Sustainability Group's Shay Dougall has released dozens of statements claiming landowners were being subjected to potential poisoning through the land.

The Lock the Gate Alliance has corroborated the group's story and called again for the banning of underground coal gasification in Australia.

EARLIER: The legal case between Linc Energy and the State Government is scheduled to appear in Dalby Magistrates Court today.

The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection filed a complaint in the Dalby Magistrates Court in June alleging Linc Energy wilfully and unlawfully caused serious environmental harm.

This charge is in addition to the four charges of wilfully and unlawfully causing serious environmental harm that the department filed against Linc Energy in April 2014, and that are still before the Court.

Western Downs Regional Council released a statement yesterday saying it was aware of the legal case appearing this week.

"As the matter is before the Court, Council will not be making any further comment," a council spokesman said.

"Like our community, we are watching the case closely and await the outcome of the court process."


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