The latest in a series of toxic leaks at the Orica’s plant near Newcastle yesterday afternoon is symptomatic of broader problems with the regulation of industrial pollution in NSW, according to the Nature Conservation Council of NSW.
“Over the past decade, industrial facilities have self‐reported thousands of breaches of pollution licences, and compliance audits conducted by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) routinely reveal unreported breaches,” Chief Executive Officer Pepe Clarke said today.
“The announcement that the EPA will take Orica to court over the earlier leak on August 8 is welcome, but broader reform is needed to send a strong signal to industry and prevent unlawful toxic pollution.
“Our review of reported licence breaches at Orica’s Kooragang Island plant revealed the facility has breached its licence a total of 131 times in the past decade, without a single prevention, clean up or prohibition notice being issued.
“Orica’s Kooragang Island plant was prosecuted and convicted once, in 2005, and paid a fine of $10,500.
“By contrast, Orica's net profits for 2009‐10 were $1,354 million. In the same year, the Executive Director of Orica was paid $7 million, and the executive management team was paid $22.6 million.
“Clearly, this penalty has not served as sufficient incentive for Orica to clean up its act.
“In 2009‐2010, the EPA completed 53 successful prosecutions for pollution offences. The average financial penalty imposed by the courts for these offences was $16,231, while the highest fine imposed was $80,000.1
“The NSW Parliamentary Inquiry in the Orica incidents must consider whether these penalties are really adequate to deter pollution by large industrial facilities.
"The NSW Government's proposal to double the penalty for failing to give notice of pollution incidents is a positive step, but it does not address the issue of low penalties being awarded for the pollution offences themselves.
“By increasing the maximum penalties for pollution offences, Parliament can indicate to the courts that stronger penalties are needed to make large polluting industry invest in improved pollution control and risk management,” Mr Clarke said.
Front page image: Daily Telegraph
 2009‐2010 Annual Report: Department of Climate Change, Energy and Water, pp.262‐7.