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Unpacking the Biggest Change to Victoria’s Environmental Regulation in 50 Years
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Unpacking the Biggest Change to Victoria’s Environmental Regulation in 50 Years

11 November 2019

New Victorian environment protection laws are planned to commence on 1 July 2020 under the 2017 Environment Protection Act (as amended 2018), and the new draft EP Regulations and Environment Reference Standards. The new laws are the biggest change in Victorian environmental regulation in 50 years - when the first Environment Protection Act was passed in Victoria in 1970.

The key difference between the old and new laws is the shift in focus from that of reaction to incidents of pollution or waste that impact human health and the environment to that of prevention. The need for this shift in focus has been exemplified by numerous recent incidents across the state, including the toxic factory fires in Campbellfield and West Footscray, the Stawell tyre "stockpile".

The focus on prevention of impact to human health and the environment is underpinned by the new general environmental duty (GED). The GED will require businesses and individuals conducting activities that may pose a risk to human health and the environment to understand those risks and demonstrate how they have eliminated or minimised them so far as reasonably practicable.

 

Why have these new regulations been developed?

The new EP Legislation gives the Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) enhanced powers and tools to prevent and minimise the risks of harm to human health and the environment from pollution and waste, including increased penalties (fines and jail terms).

Proposed environmental regulations subordinate to the new EP legislation have been released in draft for public consultation.

 

The proposed environmental regulations will:

  • Provide additional prescription to clarify obligations and enable enforcement by EPA.
  • Control specific types of pollution or waste that could lead to significant harm to human health or the environment.
  • Focus on mismanagement where some activities conducted by businesses and individuals may cause harm to human health and the environment.
  • Provide greater certainty and consistency required by duty holders under the new EP legislation including the GED, duty to management industrial waste disposal, duty to notify contaminated land and duty to manage contaminated land.
  • Provide clarity on permission activities and associated requirements and exemptions under the new three tiered ‘licence, permit and registration’ system that controls activities relative to their complexity and potential risk. 

In summary, the new environment protection laws reflect the intent and approach of the Victorian Occupational Health and Safety Act regulated by Worksafe Victoria to prevent harm through defined duties and stronger enforcement before and after harm is caused.

 

Stay Up to Date

Two of Greencap's principal environmental consultants are engaged in the EPA Stakeholder Working Committee for the new Environmental Protection Legislation. With insights from these individuals, Greencap will be publishing a series of articles detailing changes across key areas of the new regulations including Waste, Contaminated Land, Licences/Permits, as well as the implications for operators within particular industries.

 

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