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UCG company to fight serious environmental harm charges

Linc Energy's pilot plant near Chinchilla.
Linc Energy's pilot plant near Chinchilla. Contributed

UPDATE: Linc Energy will fight charges of causing serious environmental harm at its pilot plant near Chinchilla.

The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection has charged the underground coal gasification company.

A Linc Energy spokesman today said the charges did not affect the commercial or ongoing operations of the company "in any way"

"The company is disappointed the department has never attempted to fully understand the underground coal gasification process and these charges are misguided," he said.

"In addition, Linc Energy is disappointed that the department has not afforded it the opportunity to respond to the allegations throughout the 'detailed' investigation."

The spokesman said Linc Energy "at all times" complied with groundwater monitoring regulations".

"The charges relate to older style underground coal gasification technology that Linc Energy was researching several years ago and is no longer pursuing.

"Linc Energy's developed, and commercial ready, underground coal gasification technology is not included in these allegations."

Linc Energy completed its research and development program at Chinchilla in October 2013 and is in the process of "safely" decommissioning the site, according to the spokesman.

SATURDAY 11AM: Linc Energy has been charged by the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection with causing serious environmental harm at its Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) plant near Chinchilla.

If found guilty, Linc Energy could face a maximum penalty of $2.2 million per offense.

Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection Andrew Powell said the charges followed a detailed nine- month investigation in relation to the company's pilot Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) plant near Chinchilla.

"UCG is a very different process to that used to extract coal seam gas (CSG). It involves converting coal to a synthesised (or non-natural) gas via enforced combustion," Mr Powell said.

"As a result of this ongoing investigation, the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection has now filed charges against Linc Energy for causing serious environmental harm."

"While the harm allegedly caused to the environment is considered serious, the information available to the department suggests there is no immediate risk to neighbouring landholder water bores.

"The department is continuing its formal investigation into the activities of Linc Energy Limited."

"This government has implemented a regulatory strategy that is designed to get our staff out from behind their desks and onto the ground to ensure all operators meet their environmental obligations.

"We take matters such as these very seriously and there are severe penalties for companies or individuals that fail to meet our high environmental standards.

"The Queensland Government encourages emerging industries to develop, however they must comply with the state's strong environmental laws."

Lock the Gate national president Drew Hutton said the Government decision to release the statement, devoid of details and on Friday at 5pm was "a cynical act".

"Releasing this important information at 5pm Friday and on the night a major cyclone was about to hit the state was obviously designed to ensure as few people as possible read about it," Mr Hutton said.

"This underground coal gasification technology is highly dangerous and the State Government should never have allowed it. Any sensible government would ban it now."

He called on the government to release all relevant details including what specific damage was done, and where and when it occurred.

"The Newman government is allowing dirty and dangerous experiments in Queensland with unsafe technology including UCG, coal seam gas, shale gas and shale oil," Mr Huttonsaid.

The two UCG technology pilot trials in Queensland are both entering a decommissioning phase.

A report by an Independent Scientific Panel, appointed to assist the government assess the technical and environmental aspects of the UCG technology, is available at www.ehp.qld.gov.au

Topics:  andrew powell chinchilla department of environment and heritage protection environment linc energy


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