GDF Suez are refusing to pay the $18 million bill for fire fighting efforts to extinguish a fire that burned for 45 days at their Hazelwood mine in Victoria, blanketing nearby towns in smokes and ash for weeks in 2014.
A spokesperson from GDF Suez said it was a surprise to receive the invoice from the Country Fire Authority (CFA) because they understood the cost of the service was covered by the millions of dollars the company had paid in its fire service levy over many years.
“We believe the fire services levy – which is in effect an insurance policy – is designed specifically to cover fire suppression activities, whether they be large or small,” GDF Suez said in a statement.
Emergency Services Minister Jane Garrett has called on them to rethink their opposition to paying the bill, considering the size of the emergency response effort that went into fighting the mine fire.
“More than 7000 firefighters worked tirelessly over 45 days under extremely challenging conditions to battle the mine fire,” Ms Garrett said.
An official inquiry into the mine fire, chaired by Bernard Teague, was reopened in May and is expected to report on health related effects by December.
A 20-year-old man was charged last week with arson and recklessly causing a bushfire over the blaze in the Latrobe Valley that spread to the Hazelwood mine.