Flaw stops Varanus case
'Flaw' stops Varanus case

Court action against the US operator of the pipeline that exploded at Varanus Island nearly four years ago and caused about $3 billion damage to the national economy has been dropped because of a "fatal flaw" in the State Government's case.

Mines and Petroleum Minister Norman Moore told Parliament the prosecution case against Apache Northwest and its co-licensees Kufpec Australia and Tap Harriett had been discontinued in Perth Magistrate's Court yesterday.

Mr Moore said there had been a fatal flaw in the prosecution case over the explosion on June 3, 2008 that slashed WA's gas supplies by 30 per cent for nearly 10 weeks.

He said there had been no substantial prospect of establishing two essential elements of the prosecution, which was based on an allegation that the company had failed to maintain the pipeline in "good condition and repair".

Mr Moore said the State was unable to negate a statutory defence that senior company executives did not hold the "honest and reasonable but mistaken belief" that the section of the pipeline had been in good condition and repair.

There was also a "technicality" relating to a 0.7km section of the infrastructure where the rupture had occurred. In a variation document from 1992, the 0.7km section had been referred to as "pipeworks" instead of a "pipeline".

Outside Parliament, Mr Moore said he was frustrated, angry and extremely disappointed that the court action could not be pursued.

"But that doesn't mean that they will necessarily get off scot-free," he said. "There may well be civil litigants in the community who will take action against Apache on the basis of losses incurred."

He said he had been awaiting the outcome of the case to release a report into the cause of the explosion.

Given the case had been dropped, he would comply with an undertaking given to the Supreme Court to allow Apache a fair and reasonable time to review the report before publishing the document.

But shadow mines and petroleum minister Jon Ford demanded the Government immediately release the report under the privilege of Parliament.

Federal Resources Minister Martin Ferguson also lamented the delay in the release of the report, saying it had prevented the industry applying the lessons learnt.

Report co-author Kym Bills said he would be pleased when his findings were finally tabled.

Apache would not comment.

The West Australian

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