Key Points:

The guideline provides more comprehensive information and instruction to applicants on what the EPA expects in an application and how it will assess the information provided.

The Victorian Environment Protection Authority (EPA) recently released its finalised works approval guideline (EPA Publication No. 1307.10) and launched a new online checklistsystem, reforming the way works approval applications are to be prepared and submitted to the EPA. The new guideline replaces existing guideline (EPA Publication No. 1307.9) and is designed to reflect the reforms committed to in the EPA's Approvals Review Report, released in April 2013.

The new guideline provides much more information to applicants on the regulatory requirements for a works approval, how to prepare a works approval application, the level of information required for different types of proposals and how the EPA will assess applications under the fast track and standard works approval processes.

While it provides advice to applicants needing a works approval such that compliance with its requirements is not mandatory, failure to provide the information requested could result in the EPA refusing to formally accept an application before it is dealt with under the Environment Protection Act 1970 (Vic) (EP Act).  This can be significant as it is only once a works approval application has been accepted by the EPA will the statutory time period for processing the application commence.

What does it apply to?

The new guideline and online application checklist go hand-in-hand and are designed to cater for all works approval applications - from the straightforward through to highly complex proposals – while ensuring that the level of information provided is proportional to environmental risks presented by the particular proposal.  It also allows the works approval application to include separate applications for the following additional EPA approvals:

  • commissioning approval for commencing works once constructed; and
  • new licence or licence amendment (excluding for landfill proposals) to operate the works.

This may require the submission of a commissioning plan or proposed licence limits for approval by the EPA at a later date.

What does it require applicants to do when preparing their application?

The new guideline requires applicants to first complete the online application checklist  enabling them to generate a tailored template for use as a formal application document.  The checklist is to be completed having regard to the key environmental issues identified in Appendices B and C for each scheduled premises, as well as any Assessment Plan provided by the EPA as part of the pre-application process.

Applicants are then required to complete their application addressing the information requirements contained in Part B for all environmental segments relevant to their proposal. This Part sets out the type and level of information to be provided, how to demonstrate best practice and EPA's assessment considerations, for each environmental segment.  "Prompt sheets" contained in Appendix C provide relevant reference material aimed to assist applicants to ensure that key environmental impacts are addressed and "best practice" pollution control measures for  key impacts are adopted.

How does this differ from the old guideline?

The new guideline differs from the old guideline in the following key respects:

  • greater level of detail in relation to each aspect of the works approval process, from the pre-application to post-decision;
  • greater clarity on the EPA’s assessment considerations for each environmental segment;
  • inclusion of examples of "best practice" measures for each environmental segment (Appendix C); 
  • updated references to applicable EPA policies, regulations, protocols and guidelines used for the EPA's works approval assessments (Appendix A);
  • inclusion of a summary of key environmental issues and degree of concern for each scheduled premises (Appendix B); and
  • inclusion of information in relation to a new class of scheduled premises for "waste tyre storage" following the introduction of the Environment Protection (Scheduled Premises and Exemption), (Industrial Waste Resource) and (Fees) Amendment Regulations 2015 in relation to premises with more than 40 tonnes of 5000 EPU (equivalent passenger units) of waste tyres. These Regulations operate from 29 April 2015.

What are the implications for applicants?

The guideline provides more comprehensive information and instruction to applicants on what the EPA will expect to be submitted as part of an application and how the EPA will assess the information provided.  It will be important for applicants (and their advisers) to carefully examine its provisions and seek to satisfy its requirements in preparing an application. This will minimise the risk of the need for amendments prior to acceptance of the application by the EPA and facilitate smooth processing and early decision-making in accordance with EPA's target of six weeks for fast tracked applications and three months for standard applications, compared with the four months statutory period allowed under the EP Act.