MEDIA RELEASE - Aitchison calls on Minister to honour Truegain promise

Maitland MP Jenny Aitchison has called on the Minister for Energy and Environment to honour the commitment he made in June to ensure the clean-up of the former Truegain Oil Refinery site in Rutherford.

Ms Aitchison delivered a Private Members’ Statement in the Parliament of NSW on Wednesday evening, in which she reminded the Minister of the comments he made in the Legislative Chamber.

On June 18 the Minister responded to Ms Aitchison’s Parliamentary statement, in which she condemned the Government’s continued inaction on the abandoned, dilapidated site that is a ticking toxic time bomb.

“I felt a small spark of hope when the Minister told me that if the Government found that the director of Truegain and others had done the wrong thing, they would be held responsible and the Government would ‘throw the book’ at them,” Ms Aitchison said.

“He assured us he would go after the polluters ‘like a rabid dog’, and that he would ensure that the EPA did its job.”

It is now four months since the Minister made his statements in Parliament and visited Maitland, yet no meaningful action has taken place to bring the former owners to account or force them to take responsibility for cleaning up the mess they left behind.

“I fear that the Environmental Protection Agency's continued failure to act is yet another repetitive chapter in this very same sorry saga,” Ms Aitchison said.

“The EPA has a long and disappointing history of failing to hold this polluter to account. In fact, when Truegain finally ceased operations in March 2016 it did so only because Hunter Water suspended its licence to discharge. That was due to the detection of PFAS in the water that was being released into the environment and onto farmers' lands.

“The EPA only suspended Truegain’s licence a month after the fact, and its Notice of Revocation attributes the suspension to the fact that Truegain had failed to pay its gas bill.”

The NSW EPA’s Notice of Revocation of Licence No. 7638 states:

“…the EPA suspended the licence on the basis that the licensee is no longer a fit and proper person to hold the licence, lacking the financial capacity to meet its obligations under the licence. This was determined on the basis that the licensee failed to pay its gas account resulting in the disconnection of gas supply to the premises and ability to operate the afterburner.”

“I accept that the Minister did not have carriage of the Environment portfolio when this saga began, but it was his Government that failed to act, despite all the evidence,” Ms Aitchison said.

“He is now responsible for fixing this mess. He has made a commitment to my community. I call on him to honour his words and take action to protect Maitland from toxic pollution.”