Victoria’s Supreme Court has today found the Hazelwood owners guilty of breaking environmental and OHS laws during the 2014 Hazelwood mine fire.
Environment Victoria welcomed the findings and called on the Victorian government to do more to protect the public from the health impacts of coal mining and power generation.
“These verdicts should provide some closure for those who were affected by this industrial and environmental disaster. The decisions must spark a much needed discussion about better regulation of the human health and environmental impacts of mining and burning coal,” said Campaigns Manager Dr Nicholas Aberle.
The mine owners have been found guilty of all three charges brought by the Environmental Protection Agency, finding that, as a result of the fire, the atmosphere was:
They were also found guilty on 10 charges brought by Worksafe, including failing to ensure workers, firefighters and the community were not exposed to risk.
Environment Victoria was instrumental in campaigning for improved rehabilitation requirements after it was revealed that a lack of mine rehabilitation contributed to the spread of the fire.
“The Supreme Court’s findings should embolden the Victorian government to take a stronger role in regulating the coal industry. There can be little doubt that open-cut coal mines and power stations pose a serious threat to public health and our environment,” said Dr Aberle
“The impact of the fire on nearby residents has been life-altering, with the full consequences for their personal health still unfolding. One independent expert has attributed 11 deaths to the Hazelwood disaster.
“The court findings send an important message to coal companies that if you make people sick and harm our environment you will be held accountable.
“Unfortunately that message is diluted by the fact that the Environment Protection Authority still allows Victoria’s coal mines and power stations to pump out dangerous levels of toxic air pollution on a daily basis.
“The EPA is currently reviewing the licences of Victoria’s remaining brown coal-burning power stations. It is vital this review brings Victoria into line with international best practice through mandatory air pollution controls and greenhouse gas limits.
“Until this licence review is concluded, the power stations in the Latrobe Valley will continue to harm people’s health and produce as much carbon pollution as they like. Both of these are unacceptable.
“Despite the disaster of 2014, coal companies in the Latrobe Valley are continuing to book record profits, much of it in offshore tax havens, while the public bears the cost.”
Dr Nicholas Aberle, Environment Victoria Campaigns Manager
Office: (03) 9341 8112 Mobile: 0402 512 121