CONTAMINATION FREE: Toby and Ted Trebilco are Hopelands landholders, with land next to the Linc site.
CONTAMINATION FREE: Toby and Ted Trebilco are Hopelands landholders, with land next to the Linc site. Brooke Duncan

What a fraccing mess

ENERGY company Linc Energy has been found guilty of all charges of causing environmental damage.

Jurors delivered their verdicts at Brisbane District Court on Monday.

Linc, in liquidation, was not in court to defend the charges of causing serious environmental damage at Chinchilla.

But five not guilty pleas were entered on January 29, the day the trial started.

Nobody was in the dock and no defence lawyers were in court during the long, unusual trial.

Jurors heard discussions about how Linc's underground coal gasification or UCG activities impacted the environment.

Judge Michael Shanahan thanked jurors for their service.

"I know it's been a long trial. It was obviously interesting in some respects, perhaps not all the time,” he added.

Years of company documents were dug up for the trial, including internal emails suggesting the company was warned about risks to groundwater.

Jurors were told that in July 2009, the Linc UCG team presented a report to the Linc board.

The team said failures in early operations known as G2 and G3 were due to issues including "reliance on Uzbek consultants”.

The report said G2 was abandoned in a "clumsy” way, with water pumped back into wells in an attempt to extinguish gasification.

Meanwhile, already permeable coals were made even more permeable through fraccing, former Linc gas operator Ray Cowie added in a report later that year.

The environmental damage trial lasted more than 10 weeks.

Jurors found Linc wilfully and unlawfully caused environmental harm between 2007 and 2013.

Sentencing was set down for May 11.

The trial came after the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection claimed Linc allowed methane, hydrogen, carbon monoxide and hydrogen sulphide to leak from the site.

Last month, it was reported the clean-up bill for contamination at the Linc site could reach almost $80million.

The Supreme Court in March last year ruled Linc's liquidators for Linc Energy were not responsible.

That court upheld an appeal from liquidators Stephen Longley, Grant Sparks and Martin Ford against an earlier order holding them liable for land rehabilitation around the former Chinchilla site.

After the verdicts, the Lock the Gate alliance blamed a "weak regulatory regime” for the damage.

Lock the Gate claimed Linc's business was a "dangerous, toxic industry that never should have been approved in the first place”.

Lock the Gate's Carmel Flint said Linc's activities spawned a "terrible outcome for landholders who have been left to live with the mess”.

"We're really pleased to see that Linc have been found guilty and held to account,” she said.

"We hope that there will be a very hefty penalty to send a strong message... that this just won't be tolerated.”

Hopelands landholder Toby Trebilco said the primary concern for him was that his land was free from contamination.

"It's a wonderful thing for us to have the EPA call on us and give us that we're totally exonerated from any of this contamination,” Mr Trebilco said.

"The outcome of the trial as far as I'm concerned is a matter for Linc Energy and the matter is in a little tiny area not involving us as landholders.”


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