Environmental Protection Reform in Victoria

An overview of Victorian Environmental Protection reform that has been triggered by a renewed commitment and response to climate change and for the protection of our natural environment to ensure the health of the community.

In 2017 both the Climate Change Act 2017 and the Environment Protection Act 2017 were released with 2018 being a year of continued reform with the Environment Protection Act 2018 bill recently being passed.

The Climate Change Act 2017 was introduced to achieve a global response to protection of the planet against Global Warming:

  • “the people of Victoria that the international community has reached agreement to hold the global average temperature increase to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1·5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.”
  • “Through decisive, long-term action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the Victorian government can help Victoria achieve an orderly and just transition to a net zero greenhouse gas emissions economy and remain prosperous and liveable”.
  • “Victoria must also take strong action to build resilience to, and reduce the risks posed by, climate change and protect those most vulnerable.”
  • The Act establishes a framework for decision makers for:
    • Greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets
    • Climate change considerations
    • Policy objectives and guiding principles
    • Planning for climate change
    • Further information and reports
    • Forestry rights, carbon sequestration rights and soil carbon rights on private land
    • Carbon sequestration on Crown land
  • The Climate Change Regulations 2017 provides framework for:

The Environment Protection Act 1970 was subsequently amended to :

  • to regulate the emission of greenhouse gas substances to contribute to the State’s long-term emissions reduction target and interim emissions reduction targets under the Climate Change Act 2017;
  • and to
    • ensure continuation of the Environment Protection Authority (Vic), specify new governance structure establishing a Governing Board
    • introduce a new objective of the Authority from 1st July 2018 – “The objective of the Authority is to protect human health and the environment by reducing the harmful effects of pollution and waste.”
    • the inclusion of the Department of Health and Human Services in decisions relating to Works Approvals

The following supporting instruments have also been revised

  • Environment Protection (Scheduled Premises) Regulations 2017, which introduces
    • new levies (with at transitional provision for certain premises reprocessing electronic and glass waste)
    • establishes new emissions and discharge targets via noise, air, land & water and waste for the following schedule premises types: Waste treatment, disposal and recycling, Primary industry and allied operations, Mining, Animal derived by-products and food, Textiles, Wood and wood derivatives, Chemicals including petroleum, Non-metallic minerals (eg: cement works), Metals and engineering,Printing, Utilities, Others (that discharge or emit gases)
  •  State Environment Protection Policies SEPP (Waters) revised 19/10/2018
    • now one instrument for all Surface and Groundwater in Victoria
    • revised environmental protection targets
  • Waste Management Policy Reforms
    • Waste Management Policy (Combustible Recyclable and Waste Materials) for resource recovery facilities from 29/8/2018
    • Waste Management Policy (E-Waste) – View the Gazette (No. G26) banning e-Waste from landfill from 01/07/2019

The Environment Protection Act 2018 bill recently passed with the Act planned to take effect on 1st July 2020, introduces a modernised risk-based framework for the protection of the Natural Environmental with key changes being:

  • A preventative approach through a general environmental duty;
  • A tiered system of EPA permissions to support risk based and proportionate regulatory oversight – eg: licences, permits,
  • Modernising and strengthening EPA’s compliance and enforcement powers.
  • Introduction of Compliance Codes and Position Statements
  • Significant reforms to Contaminated Land and Waste management policies
  • Modified definition of Industrial Wastes – Introduction ‘priority waste’ for municipal and industrial waste that have resource recovery, recycling and reuse potential
  • Improved information sharing with other agencies
  • Requirements for more environmental information to be publicly available
  • Introduction of Voluntary Better Environment Plans;
  • Third party community rights that allows courts, on application by an individual or community, to enforce the new legislation where EPA has not acted
  • Company Director Liability
  • Increased maximum penalties – as high as 10,000 penalty units (~$1.5mill @ 2018)
  • Increased clean up and recovery costs
  • New notices, including improvement, prohibition and environmental action notices; higher penalties for illegal dumping;
  • Obligation to notify the EPA when pollution incidents and notifiable incidents occur (similar to OHS Law)

References

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