Royal Dutch Shell Group .com Shell to pay $75,000 over oil spills


By Stathi Paxinos

June 5, 2004


Shell Australia must pay $75,000 towards an environmental project near its Geelong refinery after it was convicted in the Geelong Magistrates Court yesterday of polluting Corio Bay during three oil spills last year.


The amount is the largest penalty imposed on a company for a breach of the Environmental Protection Act.


Magistrate Ron Saines said the spills, in June, September and November, totalling 360 litres, were caused by Shell's failure to adequately maintain its 800-metre pipeline jetty at Corio Bay, which tankers use to offload crude oil to the refinery.


The court had been told that the first two spills resulted from corroded pipes. The November spill happened when too much steam was pushed through a pipe during its cleaning, causing it to crack after hitting a crossbeam.


Mr Saines said Shell was fortunate that the biggest of the spills had not caused significant damage to local ecosystems.


An Age investigation last year revealed that the refinery had breached its environmental licence hundreds of times, including more than 10 oil spills, in the past two years.


The EPA has fined Shell more than 30 times since 2000 and issued three clean-up notices, but yesterday's conviction was only the second in recent years. The last conviction, in 2002, was for odour.


Shell yesterday pleaded guilty to two counts of breaching the Environmental Protection Act by polluting Corio Bay in a manner that was poisonous, harmful or potentially harmful to aquatic life. Shell was convicted and penalised $75,000 and ordered to pay $60,000 in costs.


Prosecutor Anton Lindeman, acting for the EPA, told the court that Shell had agreed to direct the $75,000 towards restoring the eroded Cowies Creek.

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