The Environmental Protection Amendment Act 2018 has now been passed into law and will take effect from 2020. The Act is the first major overhaul to Victorian environmental law in nearly 50 years and focusses on enforcing ‘general environmental duty’ (to prevent environmental harm) on companies and increasing compliance and strengthening powers of the EPA.
This Act flips the 1970 one on its head and moves away from the reactive view of managing the consequences of pollution to being proactive and reducing the risk of forthcoming harm.
Key impacts and changes:
- General Environmental Duty: Requires businesses (and individuals) to take reasonably practicable steps to eliminate or (where elimination is not possible) to minimise risks of harm to human health or the environment from pollution or waste. The General Environmental Duty is criminally enforceable and a breach can attract a penalty of up to $317,000 for an individual or $1.6 million for a corporation. A higher penalty (and/or imprisonment) may result from a more reckless/intentional breach.
- Contaminated Land Duty: Pre-existing contamination may need to be notified to the EPA. Land manager has the obligations to identity, assess, manage and notify affected parties of the contamination.
- Pollution Incidents: Requires companies (and individuals) to notify the EPA of any ‘notifiable’ incidents and to take action to rectify.
- Third party community rights: These have been introduced and will allow affected community members (in given situations) the rights to seek civil remedies.
- Three tiered environmental permissions framework: While historically businesses were incentivised to seek exemptions for environmental risk management, a new framework will be brought in where businesses can actively seek environmental permissions prior to the start of the activity (i.e being proactive rather than reactive). These will include registrations, permits and licenses.
- Industrial Waste: New duties will be imposed on Industrial Waste disposal. These are largely in relation to illegal dumping and ensuring disposal facilities are legally authorised to accept and treat waste.
- Waste Levies: The landfill levy scheme will continue and will be renamed to ‘waste levies’. The levies will now be subject to annual indexation.
The introduction of this Act will result in a number of new environmental duties with greater responsibility being placed on the business or land owner. It is advised that as a business (if you haven’t already) you begin reviewing your environmental and waste management plans to ensure you will be compliant when the Act takes effect in 2020.
For further information on the Environmental Protection Amendment Act 2018 go to https://www.environment.vic.gov.au/sustainability/independent-inquiry-into-the-epa/ep-bill-2018.