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CSG company fined for water spill

World Coal,

The Land and Environment Court of New South Wales in Australia has fined coal seam gas explorer Santos, AU$ 52 500 for a spill of contaminated water.

In December 2013, Santos pleaded guilty to charges including the 'failure to report a spill incident that threatened material harm to the environment and failures to accurately report compliance against petroleum operations plan’, following the spill of contaminated water in the Pilliga State Forest in NSW.

Eastern Star Gas
The state government was made aware of the spill by conservationists in 2011. At this time, the operation was owned by Eastern Star Gas (ESG), which was then bought by Santos several months following the release of salty water from the Bibblewindi water treatment plant. Santos has since decommissioned the plant.

A number of conservation groups have expressed concerns that the fine is inadequate. Naomi Hogan from the Wilderness Society commented: "The maximum penalty for a corporation to do this sort of environmental pollution is AU$ 1 million so to see Santos getting away with a fine of just AU$ 52 000 is certainly not sending a good message to the NSW community who are very concerned about this industry."

Hogan believes Santos should be held accountable, despite the company not being responsible for the treatment plant at the time of the spill.

‘High environmental standards’
In a written statement, Santos' Alan Feely said Santos accepts the fine and "recognises the importance of ensuring that industry complies with the high environmental standards expected by the community."

Feely added: "[T]he practices by the former owner, Eastern Star Gas, were not up to the standard by which Santos operates. We carried out a thorough review of operations and work practices when we acquired ESG. Since then we have spent around $17 million on rehabilitation in the Pilliga."

Edited from various sources by Katie Woodward

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