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Good News for a Change - Company Flouting Environmental Law Held to Account

Updated: Jun 9, 2018

Examples of companies having the book thrown at them as a result of gross environmental negligence or purposefully disregarding laws are few and far between. Because of vested interests, corruption, and a cynical posture for jurisdictions to be “business friendly”, having a pamphlet thrown at them would be a more apt metaphor. This sends a signal to the market that cutting corners is in many cases worth the risk, if your focus is solely on the bottom line.


In local news, therefore, it was a joy to read about record fines handed down by the courts against Linc Energy (an underground gas extractor) for blatant contamination of soil, air and water over an extended period (6 years). Employee testimony showed problems were evident for a long time, with the company avoiding earlier enforcement due to a weak regulatory regime. Cutting so-called “red tape” (or the spurious notion of “green tape”) has its real-world consequences: in this case, not just on the local environment but on the health of those living around the property as well.

Still, let’s take comfort in the fact that the right result was achieved in the end. With fines in the vicinity of 9 million (AUD) applied, the company has rightfully been brought to liquidation. More importantly, as noted by Environmental Lawyer Klapper, M.: “The Government wants to send a message that, in the most serious cases it won't step back from prosecuting, and it's done that.” (ABC, 2018). Hopefully, a line in the sand has been drawn, whereby exploitative industries take heed.

Still, we need government to be much more agile, with heavy penalties on the books and an enforcement regime consistent with the potential damage caused by industry. With underground gas extraction known to cause aquifer contamination, soil contamination, “rogue” emissions in the form of methane (a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide) and even earthquakes (New York Times, 2018) we must insist on comprehensive regulatory oversight and monitoring, despite the crocodile tears of industry.


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"Gasland" is perhaps the documentary that put fracking on the public radar. Find out more here: https://amzn.to/2LATFar


References


ABC News, 2018 (Sibson, E.) “Linc Energy found guilty of serious environmental harm at controversial UCG plant”. Last accessed: 27.05.18. URL: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-04-09/court-linc-energy-guilty-serious-environmental-harm-ucg-plant/9632964


ABC News, 2018 (Lodge, J.), “Rare win against Linc Energy for serious harm sounds warning to Queensland industry, lawyer says”. Last accessed: 27.05.18. URL: http://www.abc.net.au


New York Times, 2018 (Wines, M.) “Oklahoma Puts Limits on Oil and Gas Wells to Fight Quakes”. Last acessed: 27.05.18. URL: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/08/us/oklahoma-earthquakes-oil-gas-wells.html

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Matt Price
Matt Price
27 Mei 2018

It's unfortunately the long running trend of governments they are happy to make laws, but very unwilling to fund agencies properly to ensure those laws are enforced. It's the same as infrastructure and services like hospitals, it's great publicity to open a new road or hospital but not to pay to maintain those roads or pay for staff in those hospitals. While cases like these are good news, they are the exception not the rule and all too often the regulatory groups go after easier targets that won't be able to mount expensive legal defences so many laws brought in to control big issues completely miss the big targets the public wanted them for.

Suka
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