The Environment Protection Authority’s charges against the owners of Hazelwood power station for the catastrophic 2014 mine fire reinforce that big polluters will be held responsible for the damage they cause.
Environment Victoria Safe Climate Campaign Manager Dr Nicholas Aberle said today:
“The EPA is absolutely right to prosecute those responsible for the worst air pollution incident in Victoria’s history. Indeed, the community should be very concerned if the EPA can’t hold the owners of Hazelwood to account for damaging the environment and community health.
“The EPA’s charges have reinforced a basic principle – that companies will be held responsible for the damage they cause. If you pollute our air, making people in the community sick, there will be consequences. Big polluters cannot dodge this responsibility.
“This will be an important test of whether the EPA has the powers it needs to hold polluters to account, and whether the penalties in the Environment Protection Act really reflect current community expectations.
“The first inquiry after the Hazelwood fire found that the incident cost the state over $100 million. The firefight cost the CFA alone $18 million. And none of this includes the cost to people who’ve fallen sick after breathing toxic smoke for weeks on end.
“Considering how much this pollution cost the government and the local community, the potential $4 million fine reported in The Age this morning is getting off lightly.
“The government has been reviewing the EPA for the past six months, focusing on how to make it a regulator equipped for the twenty-first century. People have higher expectations for clean air and penalties against irresponsible polluters than they did twenty years ago. The EPA’s powers, and its resources to prosecute for environmental damage, need to be strengthened.
“This prosecution, together with other legal action against the owners of Hazelwood, needs to show that companies who commit crimes against the environment and against people’s health will be held responsible for their actions,” said Dr Aberle.
Dr Nicholas Aberle, Environment Victoria Safe Climate Campaign Manager,
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