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EPA is responsible for preventing or controlling pollution (including noise) and improving the quality of the environment. One of the tools available to EPA is the licensing of certain, scheduled premises that might present such a risk to the environment.
Since EPA’s licensing system was first created over 30 years ago, environmental challenges have changed. Communities are more aware of environmental issues and have higher expectations of business and government. Businesses are more responsive to environmental needs. EPA and the systems we administer also need to adapt to changes in the environment and the needs and expectations of the community, industry and ourselves.
EPA initiated a licensing reform program in 2010 to transform how we interact with business to ensure improved compliance. The program will result in environmental licences that are more accessible, set clear and standardised responsibilities for both the licence holder and EPA, and be outcome focused. Ultimately, the environment will benefit from a more streamlined, consistent, and efficient licensing system.
What does licensing reform involve?
Through the licensing reform program, the obligations of licence holders and EPA will be easier to understand and fulfill.
Licence holders will:
- submit an online annual performance statement (APS) every financial year, which is publicly accessible. This means that performance against obligations is easy to demonstrate, interpret and take action against where necessary.
- no longer be required to submit an environment improvement plan (EIP) to EPA, unless specifically required under another mechanism (for example, a state environment protection policy, notifiable chemical order, works approval, or accredited licence requirement). EPA however, encourages licence holders to retain existing EIPs as a way of driving continuous improvement.
- have standardised and outcome-focused conditions that are consistent in language and intent across industry sectors. This makes licences easy to read, understand and comply with.
- have access to EPA guidance to achieve the outcomes specified by their licence conditions. This new accountability will lead to improved compliance across businesses and will create more opportunities to adapt to today’s environmental challenges.
- develop a monitoring program that will enable both the licence holder and EPA to determine compliance with licence conditions. Monitoring plans are auditable documents that must be retained on the licenced premises for seven years.
- no longer review or approve monitoring programs. EPA however, can request a monitoring plan and its supporting documentation at any time.
- inspect and audit premises to ensure discharge limits are complied with and appropriately monitored.
- be in a better position to prevent non-compliance. The Environment Protection Act 1970 specifies penalties for breach of licence conditions or for operating a site without a licence.
- continue to fulfill its regulatory role. All non-compliances will be dealt with consistently and transparently as outlined in EPA’s Compliance and Enforcement Policy.
- continue to provide support to improve environmental performance through guidance materials, personal site visits, performance audits and meetings.
What are the benefits of licensing reform?
The reform of EPA’s licensing system has benefits for business, the environment and the community.
Benefits for business
One of the aims of the reform is to enable business to tackle other environmental challenges, such as climate change. The time and money saved through a more efficient licensing system will help this to occur.
Businesses will also have the capacity to develop their understanding of the environmental risks their operations present. This will enable improved management of these risks so that pollution incidents are minimised and are more efficiently dealt with.
The reduction in the time spent on reporting to EPA will allow businesses to focus more on their responsibilities. It will also ensure that there is better ownership and accountability for environmental management at the executive level, given the requirement for chief executive sign-off of annual performance statements.
Benefits for the environment
The reformed licensing system aims to improve the compliance rates of licence holders (and therefore reduce pollution incidents) and to increase the likelihood of businesses implementing changes that will reduce their environmental impact.
With less prescriptive conditions, licence holders will be able to adapt more easily to improvements in technology and operational efficiencies that will ultimately reduce their environmental impact.
EPA will have more capacity to focus on preventing non-compliance and ensuring emissions are better controlled. EPA will also be able to assist licence holders that want to move beyond simply complying with their licence to achieve a much broader reduction in environmental impacts.
Benefits for the community
EPA's reformed licensing system means that the community can be assured businesses have a greater understanding of the impacts their operations have on the environment. These impacts can then be more appropriately controlled and mitigated. The community will also have easier access to more current information.
All licences and annual performance statements (APS) are publicly available. Anyone can read about the environmental conditions a business is required to comply with, and how they’ve performed against them on a yearly basis.
The community can be more confident that the information provided in licences and an APS is current, relevant and accurate given significant penalties are associated with providing false, misleading or inadequate information in an APS.
With less time required to administer licences, EPA will have more time available to respond to community pollution reports. We will also ensure businesses are complying with their requirements, and take enforcement action where required.