Linc Energy has been committed to stand trial in the District Court at Dalby in Queensland, Australia, on charges relating to its underground coal gasification (UCG) operations near Chinchilla. Magistrate Kay Ryan made the ruling in the Dalby Magistrates Court on 11 March following 12 days of hearings in Dalby and Toowoomba in October and November last year.
The company faces five charges of willfully causing serious environmental harm in contravention of the Environmental Protection Act 1994. The charges allege that contaminants were allowed to escape as a result of the operation. If found guilty, the company could face a fine of up AUS$32.5 million.
In a statement, the company said it was disappointed by the ruling, noting that the prosecution had admitted in court that the evidence against it was circumstantial.
“Linc Energy reiterates its innocence and is steadfast in its belief that the evidence put before the court by the [EHP] had glaring holes and suffered from inconsistencies and, as a result, it fell well short of the standard required,’’ a company spokesperson said.
“Should the Director of Public Prosecutions decide to proceed further and take the company to trial, Linc Energy will be seeking a court hearing at the earliest opportunity in order to present its evidence, which so far has not been heard,” the company concluded.
The Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, which filed the complaints against Linc Energy, did not comment on the ruling but did say that it retained the excavation caution zone around the Chinchilla operations. Landholders in this zone are asked to contact the EHP if they intend to excavate to a depth of 2 m or more.
Edited by Jonathan Rowland.