The new Environment Protection Amendment Act 2018 (the Act) comes into effect in July 2020. It signals the start of a fairer, more balanced era of environmental regulation for Victorian businesses.
Understanding the general environmental duty (GED)
The general environmental duty (GED) is at the centre of the new Act. It applies to all Victorians. You must reduce the risk of your activities potentially harming the environment or human health through pollution or waste.
The GED will apply to many businesses, including some that may be dealing with EPA for the first time. We’ll support you to understand your obligations.
Occupational health and safety (OHS) law, which many businesses use and are familiar with, was the template for building the GED.
The Act introduces a more flexible and risk-based approach. This includes a range of new tools we call permissions. Registrations, permits and licences are all permissions. They regulate activities according to the level of risk posed.
Correct waste disposal
If you produce industrial waste you must take it to a place that can lawfully receive it. This includes sorting, recovery and disposal facilities. The Act will define new waste categories. EPA will communicate these to business and industry.
Industrial waste is waste resulting from commercial, industrial or trade activities, or from laboratories. Anyone receiving industrial waste will need to be authorised to do so.
Priority waste needs careful management to protect human health and the environment and meet community expectations about its management. A person with priority waste must take reasonable steps to recycle it. The Regulations will state what types of wastes are priority wastes.
You must report certain pollution incidents (known as 'notifiable incidents') to EPA as soon as practicable. This will help to make sure we can respond quickly to protect human health and the environment.
A notifiable incident is one that causes or threatens to cause harm to the environment or human health. You must notify EPA even if the information will put you or your business at risk of legal action. Failure to report may result in a penalty.
The Act aims for fairness for people who run their business legally. It will strengthen our powers to investigate businesses. There will also be large increases to penalties for rogue operators.
What to do about contaminated land
You must manage contamination on any site you manage or control, even if you didn’t cause the contamination. This means you must, as far as reasonably practicable, reduce any risks to human health and the environment.
You must also notify EPA about contaminated land above certain levels. You must also notify us if that contamination is moving onto nearby land. This helps us to respond quickly to protect human health and the environment.
Better environment plans
Better environment plans (BEP) are voluntary agreements that allow EPA to formally accept innovative ways of complying with the Act. Everyone must meet their obligations under the Act. You can’t use a BEP as an alternative to or a way of avoiding your obligations.
Groups of organisations may use BEPs to show how they’ll deal with an environmental issue together. We’ll help you understand when you can propose a BEP. EPA will also help you design it to prevent harm to human health and the environment. We must assess and approve any proposed plans.
Stronger fines and sanctions
The Act allows for greatly increased fines. This brings Victoria into line with other Australian jurisdictions.
If your business commits a serious breach of the Act, you could face fines of more than $3.2 million. Jail time is possible for deliberate breaches or repeat offenders.
EPA can also seek a civil penalty instead of criminal prosecution. The court can also order payment of a monetary benefit order. This allows recoup of any money made from breaking the law. We’ll also have broader cost recovery powers, meaning unrecovered costs can become a charge on your property.
These penalties make sure businesses operating illegally won’t have a competitive advantage over those doing the right thing.
Read more about protecting the environment and human health
Reviewed 28 October 2019