THE company behind one of Queensland's massive gas projects, Santos Gladstone LNG, was fined nearly $20,000 for the late reporting of oil spills and other breaches of environmental approval conditions in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area last year.
The fines totalled $19,800 and were related to the company's late reporting of five minor oil spills and two increases in turbidity levels near the Curtis Island site in the World Heritage Area (WHA).
The first public references to the fines were released in a departmental report tabled in parliament in late October this year.
A Santos spokesman confirmed the spills were of no more than 40 litres of biodegradable hydraulic vegetable oil, and all spills occurred between March 21 and September 17 last year.
The delay between the first spill and the actual reporting of the spill was about eight months, with all five oil spills reported on November 29, last year.
That was despite Commonwealth environmental conditions on the Santos GLNG project demanding the proponent report any such breaches to the federal environment department within five business days of the breach occurring.
A departmental spokeswoman confirmed the three infringement notices also related to the late reporting of two increases in turbidity levels in the WHA during the same period.
She said the two increases in turbidity levels resulted from "inadequate sediment and erosion controls following significant rainfall events" at the Santos GLNG project.
"The conditions associated with infrastructure development at Curtis Island allow for the close monitoring of incidents that may adversely impact upon the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area," she said.
"These conditions were put in place to allow the timely and thorough appraisal of any potential impacts."
She said the department believed the five oil spills had not resulted in any adverse impacts on the reef WHA, and the fines should not be taken as an admission of liability for contraventions of national environmental law.
A spokesman for Santos said the company had stringent reporting requirements required by the state government, Gladstone Ports Corporation, Marine Safety Queensland and the Federal Government.
He said that while the company had reported "every incident" within the required timeframe to the state government, GPC and MSQ; the reporting to the Commonwealth agency was late.
The company spokesman said the company undertook an "internal reporting change in November 2011", and since then, no reporting timeframe had been missed, and all reports were made in accordance with federal environmental approval requirements.
He said the company took its environmental responsibilities seriously, and the fines related to a "technical breach of a state government-imposed condition", despite the fines being imposed by the federal government in relation to its approval conditions.
The three fines, of $6,600, were each the maximum individual amount the department can fine a company for breaches of approval conditions under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
Recent environment fines on the Great Barrier Reef:
- Santos LNG: Three fines totalling $19,800 for five minor oil spills and turbidity increases in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area during 2011.
- Gladstone Ports Corporation: One fine, of $6,600, for a load of 730 cubic metres of dredge spoil dumped in the WHA in January, 2011.
- Hope Star Shipping Company: Company fined $5000 and captain fined $300 for dumping food waste in the WHA in June, 2012.
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