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Santos in Plea Talks on Environment Breaches, Court Told

Santos Ltd., Australia’s third-biggest oil producer, is discussing a plea agreement with prosecutors over environmental breaches, a court was told.

The prosecution anticipates that Santos will plead guilty to some of the eight counts of violating the Petroleum (Onshore) Act in exchange for some charges being dropped, prosecutor Ann Bonnor said in the Land and Environment Court in Sydney today.

Santos voluntarily disclosed the breaches to the New South Wales state government and has already completed a “very substantial draft of agreed facts” with the other side, Dean Jordan, Santos’s lawyer, told Justice Peter Biscoe. The document will be completed by Sept. 20, Jordan said.

In June, the New South Wales Trade & Investment department filed charges against Adelaide, South Australia-based Santos. The company failed to provide accurate environmental management reports between June 2010 and September 2011, and declare a spill of untreated production water from the Bibblewindi water treatment plant in June 2011, the department said.

Biscoe granted Bonnor’s request that the court case be put on hold until Sept. 20. The prosecutors need time to gather evidence to determine the proper penalties in the case, including remediation, and discuss them with Santos, Bonnor said to support her request.

The case is Connell v Santos NSW Pty. 13/50435. Land and Environment Court of New South Wales. (Sydney).

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