Media Releases | 9th Feb, 2016

Two years is too long for EPA action on Hazelwood mine fire

Victoria’s environment and pollution watchdog must bring charges against the owners of Hazelwood mine and power station immediately as the two year anniversary of the Hazelwood mine fire approaches, Environment Victoria has said today.

The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has so far failed to take legal action following one of the worst pollution events in Victoria’s history. Tuesday February 9th will be exactly two years since the fire started. It burned for 45 days and blanketed the homes of 15,000 people in the Latrobe valley in toxic smoke and coal ash.

“Two years is too long,” Mark Wakeham, Environment Victoria CEO said. “The EPA should be promptly pursuing charges in the wake of one of Victoria’s worst ever pollution incidents, and such a long time lag is clearly unacceptable.”

“With the EPA currently under review by the Victorian government, you would think that they would be doing everything possible to demonstrate that they are an effective and responsive regulator, not taking years to bring relatively straightforward legal action.”

“The EPA’s slowness partly reflects weaknesses in the Environmental Protection Act and their powers to force Hazelwood to present evidence. The EPA needs enhanced powers and greater penalties and should be expected to be laying charges within 12 months of any serious pollution incident.”

Previous legal advice to Environment Victoria from lawyers at Environment Justice Australia released in October 2015 found that Hazelwood breached the Environment Protection Act on at least two counts and there was a strong case for the EPA to bring charges.

The Hazelwood mine and power station is owned and operated by the majority French government owned Engie (still known as GDF Suez in Australia).

More information:

Read the legal advice here.

For comment:
Mark Wakeham, CEO Environment Victoria, 0439 700 501