News & Insights
Introduction to the Environment Protection Amendment Bill 2018
On 20 June 2018, the Victorian Environment Minister, the Hon. Lily D’Ambrosio MP, introduced the Environment Protection Amendment Bill 2018. The bill represents a world-leading transformation of Victoria’s environment protection legislation – shifting the focus from reactive management of the consequences of pollution to proactive prevention and reduction of risk.
D’Ambrosio and the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) have commenced consultation on the bill with industry groups and professional associations. It will continue to be debated during the next sitting days in late July and, if passed, is due to commence on 20 July 2020.
Greencap’s environmental team are following the bill closely and will be providing consultation to our partners and clients on their duties and obligations, should the proposed bill pass.
For assistance or additional information, please contact:
Jean Meaklim – Principal Consultant, Environment
Key Reforms in the Environment Protection Amendment Bill 2018
General Environmental Duty
The cornerstone of the Environment Protection Amendment Bill 2018 is the general environmental duty (GED). The proposed GED is intended to focus Victorian business, industry and the community on preventing harm.
This would require people to undertake reasonably practicable steps to eliminate, or if elimination is not reasonably practicable, reasonably practicable steps to minimise, risks of harm to human health or the environment from pollution or waste.
This legislation proposes a new three-tiered permissions framework allowing proportionate controls to be applied based on the nature of the risks:
Waste Management and Duties
The proposed legislation would introduce a new framework to reduce hazards from waste, while supporting waste material reuse, recovery and resource efficiency. The Bill establishes strong penalties for waste dumping and littering.
The proposed legislation introduces reforms to enable the actions of EPA and persons in management or control of a site to be more proportionate to the risks posed by contaminated land (including groundwater). This would reduce costs to consumers, businesses and government.
The bill establishes the following new duties:
Duty to manage contaminated land
Duty to notify of contaminated land
The proposed legislation would establish a more flexible assessment process than the current on-size-fits-all solution. This would consist of a preliminary risk screen (PRS) and a scaled audit.
The proposed legislation includes ‘Better Environment Plans’ to enable EPA to recognise innovative approaches to environmental protection. EPA’s endorsement of plans would be an important recognition of and support to that positive action by the partners.
Access to Environmental Information
Through the Independent Inquiry into the EPA, stakeholders reported that access to information about the environment is very important, including in helping to make decisions about their health and the environment.
The proposed legislation introduces requirements to make environmental information more transparent and accessible.
Investigation, Enforcement and Compliance
Victorians made it clear, through the Independent Inquiry into the EPA, that they want EPA to better hold polluters to account.
The proposed compliance and enforcement measures include:
Modernising, clarifying and strengthening powers for EPA Authorised Officers Improving investigation capability in EPA investigations
Higher penalties for obstructing, assaulting or impersonating an EPA Authorised Officer
Penalties and Sanctions
The proposed legislation would increase penalties for environmental offences from those in place now. This would bring the penalties into line with comparable legislation in other environmental schemes. They also reflect the significance that harmful impacts can have on human health and the environment.
For the first time in Victoria, community members affected by alleged breaches of the new environment protection laws would be able to seek direct action through a court. The Bill includes a new ‘community right’, which would allow courts to enforce the new laws without EPA’s involvement.