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Sentencing Principles for Water Pollution Offences

BACKGROUND

On 7 and 8 March 2018, judgment was delivered in Environment Protection Authority v Ardent Leisure Ltd (ACN 104 529 106) [2018] NSWLEC 36 (Ardent) to impose a fine totalling $157,950 on Ardent Leisure Ltd (AL) for polluting Sydney Harbour after approximately 6000L of diesel fuel escaped into the waters from a fuel storage system at Rushcutters Bay marina.

AL was convicted with the following offences and penalty imposed:

  1. Section 120(1) of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (NSW) (POEO Act) for the pollution of waters in Rushcutters Bay (Water Pollution Offence) – Penalty $135,000.00;
  2. Clause 19(2) of the Protection of the Environment Operations (Underground Petroleum Storage Systems) Regulation 2014 (NSW) (UPSS Regulation) in relation to Ardent’s failure to include current ‘as-built’ drawing for the fuel storage system (UPSS Regulation Offence) – Penalty $22,950.00

A publication order for a notice of the offences was also made for the purposes of improving the effectiveness of general deterrence.
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Costly Coal Spill in World Heritage Area

EPA v Clarence Colliery Pty Ltd; Chief Executive, Office of Environment & Heritage v Clarence Colliery Pty Ltd [2017] NSWLEC 82 per Robson J

Background

Clarence Colliery Pty Ltd (Clarence Colliery) operates a coal mine near Newnes Junction in the Blue Mountains area.  In July 2015 an overtopping incident occurred where 2,300 tonnes of coal escaped from a coal storage area and entered an unnamed watercourse, the Wollangambe River and the World Heritage listed Blue Mountains National Park.

National Parks are declared for exceptional natural values and must be protected for future generations.

The EPA issued clean-up notices and oversaw a comprehensive clean-up of the coal material including over 44 inspections and over 600 helicopter trips to remove the coal from the river. The clean-up efforts cost more than $2M.

Offences

In EPA v Clarence Colliery Pty Ltd; Chief Executive, Office of Environment & Heritage v Clarence Colliery Pty Ltd [2017] NSWLEC 82, Clarence Colliery was prosecuted by the Environment Protection Authority for negligently causing the escape of a coal material that harmed the environment.  The two offences were under:
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