March 12, 2018
The State Government seems likely to be hit with an $80 million bill to rehabilitate land around the former Linc underground coal gasification (UCG) site near Chinchilla.
On Friday, the Supreme Court upheld an appeal by the company’s liquidators Stephen Longley, Grant Sparks and Martin Ford against an earlier order holding them liable for cleaning up environmental contamination around the former UCG plant.
The decision is a major setback for the government in what has been described as the biggest pollution event in Queensland’s history.
The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection issued an environmental protection order in 2016, shortly before the liquidators were appointed.
It claimed the company allowed methane, hydrogen, carbon monoxide and hydrogen sulphide to leak from the Hopeland site between 2007 and 2013.
The liquidators argued that once they had lodged an official disclaimer for the land – including any plant and equipment and Linc’s mining development licence – with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, there was no obligation to comply with the environmental protection order since the plant was no longer operating.
Supreme Court judges Robert Gotterson, Philip McMurdo and John Bond agreed.
The government has budgeted more than $20 million over the next four years to clean up the site.
Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said the government was currently considering the judgment and would continue to follow the other court proceedings involving Linc Energy.
In separate action, the Department has charged five former Linc executives over the operation of the site.