Mine operators fined for environmental pollution

Kate Withers

The four operators of the Hazelwood Power Station have each been fined $95,000 for pollution-related offences resulting from the 2014 mine fire.

Earlier today, the Hazelwood Power Corporation was ordered to pay a penalty of $1.56 million in a separate Supreme Court ruling relating to breaches of occupational health and safety.

This afternoon, Justice Andrew Keogh ruled the offending by the four partners – Hazelwood Pacific Pty Ltd, Australian Power Partners BV, Hazelwood Churchill Pty Ltd and National Power Australia Investment – was “at the lower end of the range”.

“I am satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the offenders are deemed to have polluted the environment as a result of their admission,” Justice Keogh said.

“Morwell was often blanketed in thick smoke which resulted in heavy deposits of soot and ash … which was harmful to the health of residents … and had a detrimental impact on the lives of members of the community.

“There is strong proximate relationship … representative of the impact of the pollution on the community of Morwell and nearby areas.

“The large number of people exposed to pollution is a relevant consideration in sentencing.”

In sentencing, Justice Keogh noted the remorse of the mine operators and their acceptance of the fire’s “enormous impact on the community”.

“I take into account the mine operators were genuine in their expression of regret … and acted responsibility by developing and implementing a number of responses,” he said.

“I have considered a very significant reduction of the penalty that would otherwise have been imposed …to reflect what is just and proportionate.

“The offenders made a number of formal admissions, including that the atmosphere was polluted by smoke from the mine fire.”

A spokesperson for ENGIE Hazelwood said it “acknowledges the sentence[s] delivered by the Supreme Court today”.

“ENGIE Hazelwood has consistently expressed regret in respect of the February 2014 Hazelwood mine fire incident and its impact on the community. We repeat this today,” the spokesperson said.

“ENGIE Hazelwood’s rehabilitation and remediation of the Hazelwood mine and surrounds continues, with the aim of delivering a safe, stable and sustainable landform.”