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Western Australia drops lawsuit over Varanus Island gas explosion

29 March 2012

The state government of Western Australia has been forced to scrap its prosecution against US energy company Apache over the Varanus Island gas explosion in 2008, which cut the state's domestic gas supply by 30 per cent.

The 2008 explosion at the Varanus Island gas plant cut Western Australia's gas supplies by 30% and caused a state-wide energy crisis
The 2008 explosion at the Varanus Island gas plant cut Western Australia's gas supplies by 30% and caused a state-wide energy crisis

WA Mines and Petroleum Minister Norman Moore said the case could not proceed because of a technicality. In proceedings launched in 2009, the government claimed Apache had failed to maintain a pipeline in good condition and repair.

The disaster was sparked when the main pipeline to Apache Energy's gas plant erupted, causing an explosion, on June 3, 2008.

But four QCs advised the government its case would fall down because a variation made to Apache's license meant the part of the pipeline that exploded had been misclassified as "pipe works", rather than as a pipeline, Mr Moore said. Moore said Apache's lawyers argued that: "In effect part of the pipeline was not licensed and therefore they could not be charged with not maintaining a pipeline in good shape when in fact there was no such thing as a licensed pipeline".

He said the technicality did not apply to any other pipelines in the state and should not affect cases for civil litigants over the explosion.

Moore said the truth of what caused the explosion would come out in the form of an independent review shortly. "Because we have now not proceeded with the prosecution I'm going to provide to Apache a copy of the Bills Agnostini report," he said.

"I will then make the report public and everybody will know once and for all what these two independent inquirers believe caused the Varanus issue."




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