Taxpayers still footing bill for one of state’s worst environmental mistakes

Millions of dollars have been poured into correcting the mess created by one of the State Government’s biggest environmental mistakes _ underground coal gasification.

Jun 17, 2021, updated Jun 17, 2021
Linc Energy first combined UCG and GTL technologies for fuel production on 14 October 2008.

Photo Contributed.

Linc Energy first combined UCG and GTL technologies for fuel production on 14 October 2008. Photo Contributed.

The State Government has budgeted another $15.6 million over the next two years to continue the clean up of the Linc Energy UCG project near Chinchilla and to pay for legal action against its former executives. The case is listed for trial in the District Court on August 23. 

At the time of the discovery of Linc’s damage, it was considered to be Queensland’s worst ever environmental incident.

It was found Linc’s operations had contaminated ground water over a wide area.

Department of Resources acting director general Mike Kaiser last night posted on social media that the Government was trying to “offset the substantial cost of abandoned sites’’ when companies left it to taxpayers to clean up and was auctioning off old equipment.

There are about 120 mining sites in Queensland that the Government lists as “complex’’.

Kaiser said the department began the process of plugging gas wells at the abandoned Linc Energy site near Chinchilla on Wednesday.

“Underground coal gasification and breaches of environmental requirements has left the site contaminated, with taxpayers left to clean up the mess,” Kaiser said.

“(This) demonstrates why Department of Resources staff must maintain their skepticism, even as they work with companies to create economic prosperity.”

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Linc was found guilty of widespread environmental damage and fined $4 million three years ago. The funds were never paid because by the time the case got to court the company had collapsed. 

The UCG trial began under the Beattie Labor Government in 2009 with three companies – Linc, Carbon Energy and Cougar Energy.

At the time, industry players warned the Government of the dangers of UCG.

By 2010, the Carbon and Cougar trials were suspended after environmental incidents. Cougar had contaminated groundwater near its site in Kingaroy. Carbon restarted its project in 2012, but by 2017 the Government had pulled the plug on the sector and banned it from operating in Queensland.


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