SCORCHED EARTH

Linc charged amid claims that ground could ig­nite

The Courier-Mail - - NEWS - JOHN MCCARTHY

A GAS com­pany has been ac­cused of con­tam­i­nat­ing a par­cel of prime farm­land west of Dalby with po­ten­tially ex­plo­sive hy­dro­gen as part of its con­tro­ver­sial un­der­ground coal gasi­fi­ca­tion process.

The Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­ment and Her­itage Pro­tec­tion yes­ter­day filed a com­plaint in the Dalby Mag­is­trates Court al­leg­ing Linc En­ergy wil­fully and un­law­fully caused se­ri­ous en­vi­ron­men­tal harm at its un­der­ground coal gasi­fi­ca­tion (UCG) plant near Chin­chilla.

Linc is al­ready fac­ing four other en­vi­ron­men­tal charges over the same op­er­a­tion, each with the po­ten­tial for a $6 mil­lion fine. A sim­i­lar UCG project in Kin­garoy, op­er­ated by Cougar En­ergy, was shut down by the Bligh gov- ern­ment af­ter ground­wa­ter was con­tam­i­nated and En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Steve Miles said Cabi­net would have to de­cide its fu­ture.

Mr Miles last night met with Hopeland com­mu­nity mem­bers to as­sure them they were safe. It is claimed Linc op­er­ated out­side its en­vi­ron­ment author­ity and that hy­dro­gen, car­bon monox­ide and hy­dro­gen sul­fide leached into the land over a 320sq km area. The plant was closed more than a year ago. Mr Miles said the land was safe for graz­ing and crops but dig­ging could cre­ate a spark and ig­nite the gas.

Linc is fight­ing the claims and ac­cused the Gov­ern­ment of a hap­haz­ard in­ves­ti­ga­tion. “The min­is­ter and direc­tor- gen­eral have re­fused to meet with Linc de­spite nu­mer­ous re­quests,” a spokesman said.

Hopeland com­mu­nity spokes­woman Shay Dougall said landown­ers were an­gry risks were al­legedly taken with their land.

AN­GRY LANDOWN­ERS: Shay Dougall says res­i­dents are con­cerned over the al­le­ga­tions. Pic­ture: Steve Pohlner

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