Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) says today’s Supreme Court sentencing decision to fine four companies a total of $380,000 over the 2014 Hazelwood mine fire, sends a clear message to industry that pollution of our environment will not be tolerated.
The fine follows a guilty verdict in July 2019 against Hazelwood Pacific Pty Ltd, Australian Power Partners B.V., Hazelwood Churchill Pty Ltd and National Power Australia Investments Ltd.
EPA Chief Executive Officer, Dr Cathy Wilkinson, said that EPA was pleased with the guilty verdict and that the polluters have been held to account through sentencing today.
“This was grand-scale pollution that affected the environment and every member of the community,” Dr Wilkinson said.
“We acknowledge there may be members of the Latrobe Valley community who are disappointed by this outcome. I want to acknowledge the significant impact of the fire and thank them for their support of EPA’s case and for appearing before the Supreme Court.
“EPA will continue to pursue maximum penalties when holding polluters to account.”
Over 50 members of the Latrobe Valley community submitted Victim Impact Statements to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court noted that the fire resulted in health, financial and psychological impacts on the local community and that a large number of people were exposed to the pollution that occurred as a result of the fire.
The sentence follows a guilty verdict in July 2019, for the four companies:
• Hazelwood Pacific Pty Ltd
• Australian Power Partners B.V.
• Hazelwood Churchill Pty Ltd and
• National Power Australia Investments Ltd
Each company was found guilty on all three charges:
• polluting the atmosphere so as to make it noxious, poisonous, or offensive,
• polluting the atmosphere so as to make it harmful to health, welfare, safety or property, and
• polluting the atmosphere so as to make it detrimental to any beneficial use.
Publication of the hearing and the verdict was suppressed until a verdict was delivered in a separate prosecution, brought by WorkSafe Victoria, of a related entity over breaches of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 related to the same incident.
The Hazelwood Mine fire began on 9 February 2014 and burned for 45 days. It was the largest and longest burning mine fire ever to occur in the Latrobe Valley. For most of the 45 days the fire burned, Morwell was blanketed in thick smoke, including inside homes and businesses,”
The mine site has an 18-kilometre perimeter and is up to 120 metres deep.
7000 emergency personnel fought the fire.