Linc Energy facing $32.5m fine, possible jail for executives
Linc Energy, alleged to have caused an underground fire near Chinchilla, faces a $32.5 million fine from the Queensland Government.
Senior company executives face a maximum five-year jail term for "wilful environmental damage."
Environment Minister Dr Steven Miles this morning announced that Linc Energy now faced five charges each with a maximum penalty of $6.5 million.
Linc Energy ran an underground coal gasification centre at a pilot plant near Chinchilla.
Since October 2013 it has been slowly disbanding the plant after orders from the previous government.
EARLIER: THE State Government has launched further legal action against Linc Energy following a four-month investigation into soil contamination in the Hopeland region.
The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection filed a complaint in the Dalby Magistrates Court today 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 EHP filed against Linc Energy in April 2014, and that are still before the Court.
Queensland Environmental Regulator, EHP Director-General Jon Black, said after a detailed investigation EHP alleges Linc Energy operated its trial Underground Coal Gasification plant outside its Environmental Authority causing contamination in the form of gas to escape off the site.
"These fugitive gases polluted a widespread area by following underground pathways, between two and six metres underground.
"The polluting gases included carbon monoxide, hydrogen and hydrogen sulphide," Mr Black said.
It is important to note that extensive testing and monitoring has confirmed that the regional air quality remains safe, as does the drinking, stock and underground water supply.
"There is no immediate harm caused to agriculture, including grazing or cropping," Mr Black said.
"The underground coal gasification process is not the same as the coal seam gas process.
"The gas pollution detected is from an underground coal combustion process."
Mr Black said that during the course of the investigation, the 100-strong investigation taskforce also conducted farm environmental assessments on a number of properties in the area that were considered to have potentially been impacted by the gas contaminants.
"The assessments were designed to test properties for potential risks to residents and impacts to crops or grazing.
"Government officers tested bores, surface soils, tank water and dam water at each property.
"At the conclusion of the assessments, each landholder was provided with a comprehensive scientific report specific to their property."
Mr Black said EHP remained committed to continuing scientific investigations to determine an appropriate environmental management strategy for the gas contamination and associated issues to ensure necessary rehabilitation and removal of the excavation exclusion zone.
"EHP understands that this has not been an easy period for the Hopeland community and I express EHP's gratitude for the community's cooperation, patience and understanding as our investigations proceeded.
"EHP will continue to work closely with the community and keep them informed of any further developments," Mr Black said.
EHP's Hopeland investigation team remains available to answer any questions landholders and community members may have and can be contacted at email@example.com.
Further information on the soil investigations undertaken at Hopeland is available at www.ehp.qld.gov.au/management/hopeland.html.