The largest fine ever issued under Australia’s strict ozone protection laws has been handed down to a Victorian-based fire protection company for the unlawful importation of hydrofluorocarbon (HFC).
Following a civil prosecution from the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment, this week the Federal Court of Australia, found ACN 089 171 415 Pty Ltd, formerly known as Fire Protection Technologies Pty Ltd, to be in contravention of section 13(1) of the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Act 1989 and has been ordered to pay a civil penalty of $500,000.
Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley said the Department’s prosecution against the company commenced in July 2019 after an investigation into the importing of bulk HFC without a controlled substances licence.
“During our investigation, department officers seized several one-tonne capacity cylinders containing HFC-227ea, a widely used extinguishing agent, from the company’s premises in Melbourne and Perth,” Minister Ley said.
“This amount of HFC had the potential to create emissions equivalent to the annual emissions of 6600 cars or 2300 households.
“The company was aware of their obligations and import licensing requirements but proceeded to import a significant quantity of HFC-227ea anyway.
“The work of the Department in pursuing this issue and the Federal Court ruling demonstrate that this type of behaviour will not be tolerated and the significant penalty imposed should send a clear message to any company thinking about working outside their obligations under the Act.”
Importing HFC without a licence is a breach of the Act and the maximum penalty for each contravention of unlicensed importation is $2,100,000. The court noted that the company has also undertaken to pay clean-up costs for the remaining amount of HFC-227ea.
HFC is a type of synthetic greenhouse gas which traps heat in the atmosphere and is measured by its global warming potential. HFC-227ea is the fifth most potent of the 18 scheduled HFCs under the Act, and the most potent HFC that is commonly imported into Australia.
A priority compliance focus for the department is to reduce emissions of synthetic greenhouse gases and ozone depleting substances. More information about the ozone protection and synthetic greenhouse gas program can be found here.