The Environment Protection Amendment Act 2018 (the Amendment Act) is the result of feedback provided to the Ministerial Advisory Committee's Inquiry into EPA. The key themes of the Amendment Act are:
The cornerstone of the Amendment Act is the introduction of a general environmental duty, where a person who is engaging in an activity that may give rise to risks of harm to human health or the environment from pollution or waste must minimize those risks, so far as reasonable practicable.
Flexible and risk-based
The Amendment Act introduces greater flexibility and proportionality through:
- compliance with the general environmental duty
- information for industry permissions, contamination and waste to help compliance with the general environmental duty.
The Amendment Act ensures more environmental information is publicly available to:
- support good environmental decision making
- facilitate an understanding of how decisions are made
- help understand the state of the environment.
Environmental justice initiatives, including:
- access to a greater range of proportionate sanctions
- innovative approaches to allow for rights of review and participation in decision making processes.
The Amendment Act updates EPA's tools and powers. These improvements will give EPA better systems and authority, and bring it into line with other regulators.
We want to ensure a smooth transition for industry to the prevention-based approach.
This fundamentally reforms the core of the environment protection regulatory approach.
The key message about this reform is that it is intended to drive prevention.
The Environment Protection Act 1970 vs The Environment Protection Amendment Act 2018
The core of the Environment Protection Act 1970 (the 1970 Act) is pollution offences - and this is a key contributor to EPA's focus being perceived as predominantly responsive.
The Government's response to the Independent Inquiry into EPA makes it clear that it wants EPA to shift focus to preventing harm.
It means very significant change in the way EPA regulates. Adjusting to this new regulatory framework presents a substantial cultural challenge for the organisation and our stakeholders.
The 1970 Act is to be replaced with new law that:
- focuses on preventing harm to human health and the environment
- improves transparency through greater access to information
- is flexible, efficient and adaptable for business, the community and EPA
- has stronger penalties that can effectively be enforced to increase community confidence in EPA and its statutory powers.
EPA's general duty focus
The general duty focuses on:
- identifying the most significant risks to human health and the environment arising from pollution and waste - this may be on an industry and/or risk type basis
- working collaboratively with industry and key stakeholders to develop guidance, and on those priority risks and suitable controls
- provide clarity on what it is reasonably practicable to deal with particular risks
- compliance information forms the 'state of knowledge' about particular risks.