Petroleum company fined for breaching environment law
17 December 2010
An oil and gas exploration company has been fined just over $102 000 for breaching national environment law by starting to drill without federal environmental approval.
Stuart Petroleum began drilling at its well in the Timor Sea in October 2009, after referring its drilling program to the federal environment department for environmental assessment, but before an assessment decision had been made-an offence under national environment law.
The proposal was being assessed for its potential to have an impact on nationally listed threatened species and ecological communities, listed migratory species, and Commonwealth marine areas.
The company pleaded guilty in Darwin Magistrates Court today.
Departmental spokeswoman Rose Webb said the department took compliance matters seriously, and reminded companies of the importance of meeting their obligations under national environment law.
"These laws are in place to make sure projects are carried out with minimal impact on nationally protected matters, including our threatened and migratory species," Ms Webb said.
"This decision shows that companies who break our environmental laws will be dealt with seriously.
"Trying to bypass the assessment process isn't going to speed up your project-it's more likely going to create problems for your company.
"Companies need to make sure they refer any project that might have a significant impact on matters protected under the legislation, and that all final approvals are obtained before any work starts."
The company was charged with taking an action while the decision-making process was still under way under section 74AA of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
The maximum penalty for this offence for a corporation is $275,000.
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