Users of the guidelineThis guideline is for use by holders of EPA issued operating subject to condition OL_G7 or DL_G7. The guideline has not been prepared for general industry or community stakeholder use.
The objective of the ‘Decommissioning guidelines for licences’ is to help EPA-issued licence holders prepare a decommissioning plan. These plans are required for all prescribed permission activities conducted under an operating licence subject to licence condition OL_G7.
The guideline aims to achieve this objective by providing:
- Guidance on the detail and phasing of decommissioning plans.
- Clarity on EPA’s expectations for the minimum standards for decommissioning plans.
- A clear framework for preparing and structuring decommissioning plans.
A decommissioning plan prepared in accordance with this guideline assists licence holders demonstrate compliance with licence condition OL_G7 or DL_G7.
Legislative and permissioning framework
Under Schedule 1 of the Environment Protection Regulations 2021 (the Regs) certain activities are ‘prescribed activities’. You need a permission from EPA before commencing any these activities. Permissions work alongside the GED and other duties to ensure performance standards and conditions are met across a range of activities. Permissions include licences, permits, and registrations.
Licences are a type of permission used for the highest risk and complexity activities. This includes such activities as landfills, power stations, and Reportable Priority Waste management facilities. There are two main types of licences. A development licence is for the design, construction, and modification stages of complex high-risk activities. An operating licence is required to undertake the activities.
Decommissioning of prescribed activities
Cessation or ‘decommissioning’ of prescribed activities can pose significant risks to human health and environment. Decommissioning is not defined under the EP Act or Regulations. For the purposes of this guideline, decommissioning means removing risk of harm to human health and the environment from plant, equipment and activity site areas that are no longer in use. This includes:
- part or complete cessation of activities
- part or complete removal of equipment, structures, or wastes or
- relinquishing or changing land use of some or all an activity site area.
Licence condition OL_G7
Section 54(2)(j) of the Act allows EPA to impose conditions relating to the cessation of permission activities. EPA has imposed a condition (OL_G7) on operating licences to help manage risks associated with decommissioning. The condition requires operating licence holders to prepare and maintain a decommissioning plan. This is consistent with EPA’s preventative, risk-based, and duties framework. Plans must be provided to EPA (the Authority) upon request. Licence condition OL_G7 states:
(a) develop and maintain a decommissioning plan that is in accordance with the current decommissioning guidelines published by the Authority;
(b) provide the decommissioning plan to the Authority upon request;
(c) supply to the Authority an updated decommissioning plan 40 business days prior to commencement of decommissioning, if you propose to divest a section of the licensed site, cease part of all of the licensed activity or reduce the basis upon which the licence was granted to a point where licensing is no longer required; and
(d) decommission the licensed site in accordance with the detailed decommissioning plan, to the satisfaction of the Authority and within any reasonable timeframe which may be specified by the Authority.
If your operating licence includes condition OL_G7 you must prepare and maintain a decommissioning plan in accordance with this guideline.
Decommissioning requirements for landfills
If you are an operating licence holder that operates a landfill, you will need to complete both:
- a rehabilitation plan for the landfill area (licence condition OL_L22) and
- a decommissioning plan for the remaining licensed areas the site.
For guidance on landfill rehabilitation plan obligations, please see:
- Best practice environmental management: Siting, design, operation and rehabilitation of landfills (EPA Publication 788)
Decommissioning requirements for extractive industries or mines
If you are an operating licence holder that operates an extractive industry or mine you may also be regulated under the Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act 1990 (MRSDA). The MRSDA may require a rehabilitation plan and MRSDA Bond. EPA does not intend to duplicate the rehabilitation and decommissioning requirements of the MSRDA. Your decommissioning plan does not need to address those elements covered by MRSDA requirements.
Financial assurance requirements
EPA requires a financial assurance as a condition of certain licences. In these instances, decommissioning plans will be considered when determining the amount of financial assurance. Please refer to:
- Financial assurance for permissions and contaminated land management (EPA publication 2002) (https://www.epa.vic.gov.au/about-epa/publications/2002)
- Calculation of financial assurance for landfills, reportable priority waste management and waste and resource recovery facilities (EPA publication 2003)
Cessation or ‘decommissioning’ of prescribed activities can pose significant risks to human health and environment. Some of these risks can be minimised or eliminated by considering them over the lifespan of an activity’s operation. This can be achieved through your risk management and monitoring program (OL_G5) and by complying with licence conditions, the GED, and other duties, including the duty to notify of contaminated land. Decommissioning planning and decommissioning should be conducted progressively as your operating licence activity site requirements or state of knowledge change.
Decommissioning of a licensed activity will require an assessment. These assessments usually involve a detailed site investigation to determine the environmental condition of an activity site. Site investigations aim to ensure that all environmental risks are assessed and are necessary to identify appropriate environmental control measures for decommissioning. In some instances, decommissioning may uncover legacy or historical pollution and contamination. This may lead to further assessment and clean-up work – see ‘encountering pollution or contamination’.
Assessments, including detailed site investigations, must be conducted by a suitably qualified person. The content of assessments will vary case-by-case and will be informed by state of knowledge for that industry or activity type. An assessment must address all relevant environment segments. A detailed site investigation usually requires the assessment of land, soil vapour, and groundwater.
This guideline does not provide industry or activity specific advice on the risks of decommissioning activities. It is the responsibility of operating licence holders to be familiar with the state of knowledge for your industry or activity.
Encountering pollution or contamination
A detailed site investigation will identify if pollution or contamination has occurred. If detected, further work may be required under a statutory environmental audit. This work may require site clean-up or remediation.
Under these circumstances EPA is likely to specify requirements and timeframes of decommissioning. This will do done through issuing a Remedial Notice. The Notice will specify decommissioning requirements which you must comply with.
For more information, please see:
- Guidance for operating licences (EPA publication 1850)
- Remedial powers policy (EPA publication 1813)
- Remedial notices and directions
Minimum requirements for all decommissioning plans
As a minimum requirement, all decommissioning plans prepared under this guideline must:
- Outline how you intend to cease prescribed activities.
- Detail how you will reinstate the environment to the condition it was in before commencing prescribed activities.
- Identify post-activity land uses.
- Detail the measures to manage risks to environment and human health associated with decommissioning activities
- Detail measures to comply with the GED, duties to manage contaminated land, duties to notify, and duties to manage waste during decommissioning
- Detail measures to comply with any other relevant condition of the operating licence
- have regard to any other relevant statutory or legislative requirements.
All plans must address parts (a)-(d) of Table 1 – Decommissioning Plan structure below. Initially, the information may be brief and general. The level of detail will develop as your operations change over time or as your state of knowledge grows. However, you must keep the decommissioning plan up to date including when licensed activities are expanded, ceased, or if land is divested. In accordance with conditions of your licence, your plan must be provided to EPA upon request.
Requirements for final decommissioning plans
When it comes time to submitting a final decommissioning plan in accordance with operating licence condition OL_G7(c) and (d), or development licence condition DL_G7, your decommissioning plan must address in full parts (a)-(f) of Table 1 – Decommissioning Plan structure below. Your final plan must cover the entire activity site area as shown on your operating licence.
Table 1: Decommissioning Plan structure
|Plan identification||The unique title and identifier of your decommissioning plan.|
|Background information||Relevant background information including setting out the purpose of your decommissioning plan.|
|Licensed activities||Your decommissioning plan must provide a summary of all activities you are allowed to conduct under your operating licence.|
|(a) Condition of the existing site||
Describe the site condition in terms of existing or proposed:
This must be supported by a site layout plan showing and labelling these listed structures. It should match your operating licence activity site plan or part thereof.
|(b) Planned life of the site||
Identify where your licenced operations are within the site’s life cycle. For example:
|(c) Consequences of your activities||
Your site decommissioning plan must consider:
This information is required to be detailed in your risk management and monitoring program. For more information, see Implementing the general environmental duty: A guide for licence holders (https://www.epa.vic.gov.au/for-business/find-a-topic/environment-protection-laws-and-regulations/implementing-the-general-environmental-duty---a-guide-for-licence-holders)
Explain how you plan to leave the site once you no longer occupy it, or the post-decommissioning land use. You should list:
|(e) Site closure (partial or complete)||
The nature and extent of your operations will inform the level of detail for your final decommissioning plan. Your final decommissioning plan must include or address:
|(f) Decommissioning strategy||
Your decommissioning strategy must involve, where relevant:
Decommissioning plan requirements for new development licence or exemption applications
EPA may require you to submit an initial decommissioning plan as part of a development licence application or development licence exemption application. You can provide an updated decommissioning plan if are proposing changes to existing licensed activities.
For more information, see Development licence application guidance (EPA publication 2011).
Here is a list of information related to decommissioning for further support.
|Web page||Understand your contaminated land duties||https://www.epa.vic.gov.au/for-business/new-laws-and-your-business/manage-contaminated-land/about-contamination/understanding-your-contaminated-land-duties|
|Guideline||Reasonably Practicable (EPA Publication 1856)
|Act||Environment Protection Act 2017
|Web page||Managing waste soil|
|Web page||How to manage and store combustible recyclable and waste materials||https://www.epa.vic.gov.au/for-business/find-a-topic/manage-industrial-waste/crwm|
|Publication||Development licence application guidance (EPA publication 2011)||https://www.epa.vic.gov.au/about-epa/publications/2011|
|Permissions proposal pathway guideline (EPA publication 1995)||https://www.epa.vic.gov.au/about-epa/publications/1995|
|Permission pathway form (EPA publication f1021)||https://www.epa.vic.gov.au/about-epa/publications/f1021|
|How to surrender your licence or permit||https://www.epa.vic.gov.au/for-business/permissions/licences/how-to-surrender-your-licence-or-permit|
|Assessing and controlling risk: A guide for business (EPA publication 1695)||https://www.epa.vic.gov.au/about-epa/publications/1695-1|
|Contaminated land policy (EPA publication 1915)||https://www.epa.vic.gov.au/about-epa/publications/1915|
|Contaminated land: understanding section 35 of the Environment Protection Act 2017 (EPA publication 1940)||https://www.epa.vic.gov.au/about-epa/publications/1940|
|Potentially contaminated land – A guide for business (EPA Publication 2010)||https://www.epa.vic.gov.au/about-epa/publications/2010|
|Guidance for operating licences (EPA publication 1850)||https://www.epa.vic.gov.au/about-epa/publications/1850-1|
|Implementing the general environmental duty: A guide for licence holders (EPA publication 1851)||
|‘Financial assurance for permissions and contaminated land management’ (EPA publication 2002)||https://www.epa.vic.gov.au/about-epa/publications/2002|
|‘Calculation of financial assurance for landfills, reportable priority waste management and waste and resource recovery facilities’ (EPA publication 2003)||https://www.epa.vic.gov.au/about-epa/publications/2003-1|
Reviewed 28 April 2023