Taxpayers could foot $80m bill for Linc clean-up
TAXPAYERS could be stuck with a bill of up to almost $80 million to clean up environmental contamination after a court ruled liquidators for Linc Energy were not responsible.
The Supreme Court yesterday upheld an appeal by company liquidators Stephen Longley, Grant Sparks and Martin Ford against an earlier order holding them liable for rehabilitation of land around the former Linc underground coal gasification site near Chinchilla.
It is a major setback for the Palaszczuk Government in what former Environment minister Steven Miles called "the biggest pollution event probably in Queensland's history".
The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection had issued an environmental protection order in 2016, shortly before the liquidators were appointed.
It claimed the company allowed methane, hydrogen, carbon monoxide and hydrogen sulphide to leak from the Hopeland site between 2007 and 2013.
The liquidators argued that as they had lodged an official disclaimer for the land - including any plant and equipment and Linc's mining development licence - with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, there was no obligation to comply with the environmental protection order.
In the judgement released yesterday, Justices Robert Gotterson, Philip McMurdo and John Bond agreed.
The Government has budgeted more the $20 million over the next four years towards cleaning up the site.
But the court heard evidence that estimates provided to the department put the cost of rehabilitation at up to $78 million over a period of eight to 30 years.
Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said: The Government is currently considering the judgment in this case and will continue to follow the other court proceedings involving Linc Energy."
In separate action, the department has charged five former Linc executives including ex-chairman Peter Bond over the operation of the site.