- Court grants discontinuance for State prosecution case
- Prosecution efforts undermined by new technical evidence
The State Government’s prosecution case against Apache Northwest Pty Ltd and its co-licencees, Kufpec Australia Pty Ltd and Tap (Harriet) Pty Ltd has been withdrawn following a discontinuance being granted in the Magistrates Court this morning.
Mines and Petroleum Minister Norman Moore said he was extremely frustrated that the case could not proceed and was angry that the company was able to avoid facing the Magistrates Court in regard to the alleged offence because of what he believed to be legal technicalities.
The Government’s case related to the Varanus Island pipeline explosion and the company was charged with ‘failing to maintain a pipeline in good condition and repair’.
The Minister said the Department of Mines and Petroleum’s decision to discontinue the prosecution was made in response to new information and evidence provided by Apache Northwest and its co-licensees during the pre-trial proceedings.
“After extensive consideration and advice from Western Australia’s State Solicitor’s Office as well as the Independent Bar, it was decided that there was no reasonable prospect of success for the State to prove two essential elements of the prosecution,” Mr Moore said.
“This included the State being able to negate the statutory defence that the company’s senior executives did not hold ‘the honest and reasonable but mistaken belief’ that the section of the pipeline in question was ‘in good condition and repair’.
“It was also considered that there was no reasonable prospect the State could prove the section of the pipeline which ruptured was licensed under the Petroleum Pipelines Act 1969 due to a technicality in a variation document from 1992. The variation used the terms ‘pipeworks’, rather than ‘pipeline’.”
The prosecution, launched in May 2009, was related to the pipeline explosion incident at Varanus Island on June 3, 2008, which cut WA’s gas supplies by 30 per cent.
“This follows the company’s continued litigation for about two years that hindered every effort by the State, including the joint State and Federal governments effort, to thoroughly investigate this incident and publicly release findings.”
Mr Moore said despite the discontinuance of the State prosecution action, he was still unable to release any findings from the Offshore Petroleum Safety Regulation - Varanus Island Incident Investigation Report by Kym Bills and Dave Agostini.
“In July 2009 I was required to give an undertaking to the Supreme Court that I would not publish the report, which includes releasing any findings of the report, until I had afforded Apache Northwest a reasonable opportunity to be heard in relation to any adverse comments in the report,” he said.
“While the State was pursuing the prosecution, I was reluctant to release any findings from the report, as I had a responsibility to ensure the State’s prosecution case was not jeopardised by any further court action from Apache Northwest.
“I will now be providing a copy of the report to Apache and, once I have met my legal obligations, I will be better positioned to share this information once I have received the company’s response.”
The initial Varanus Island report provided by the then National Offshore Petroleum Safety Authority in October, 2008 is available from the Department of Mines and Petroleum by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
- For more information about the Varanus Island incident:
Minister's office - 6552 5400