AGL slapped with $124,000 in fines for breaching political donations laws

09/05/2019 Posted by admin

AGL ?says it adopted a new policy in 2015 prohibiting political donations with AGL funds. Photo: Rob HomerEnergy giant AGL has been fined $124,000 in the NSW Land and Environment Court for failing to disclose political donations when making planning applications in the state.
Nanjing Night Net

The Department of Planning and Environment brought the case against AGL and its subsidiary AGL Upstream after a compliance investigation was undertaken following complaints from community groups led by Groundswell Gloucester.

The department said on Thursday that the fines were the largest imposed since the provisions were introduced in 2008. The companies were also required to pay the department’s legal costs.

The 11 breaches, to which AGL pleaded guilty in February, involved failures to properly disclose donations as it applied for coal seam gas projects in Gloucester and Camden, the Newcastle Gas Storage Facility, the Broken Hill solar plant and the Dalton Power Station, the department said.

The fines were welcomed by John Watts, a spokesman for Groundswell Gloucester, who said it was “pleasing to see that AGL has finally been held accountable for its failure to comply with its political donations obligations”.

Mr Watts, though, said it was concerning that it required the diligent work of its volunteer members to unearth the breaches.

“The government itself seems to never bother checking that the law has been complied with,” he said, adding that the fact companies were not required to immediately report political donations made breaches harder to uncover.

“The penalties for such offences are woefully small having regard to the huge amounts of money involved in the large projects that companies such as AGL undertake, and having regard to the importance to communities in knowing what is being donated.”

At the time of the breaches, AGL had been pursuing development of a $1 billion-plus coal seam gas field near Gloucester in the state’s mid-north coast. The company abandoned the venture in February after a slew of mishaps and attempts to dump waste water into Hunter Water’s network despite being told in writing not to do so.

AGL said in a statement it accepted the judgment of the court, adding it had adopted a new policy in 2015 prohibiting political donations with AGL funds.

James Hebron, general counsel for Planning,  said the company had  co-operated with its compliance investigation.

“Under planning legislation there is an obligation on a proponent when making a planning application to report political donations,” Mr Hebron said. “This is to ensure transparency in the planning process.”

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