Yesterday, the draft Environmental Protection Amendment Bill 2019 (Draft Bill) was released for public consultation.
The Draft Bill reflects a wholesale review of the Environmental Protection Act 1986 (WA) and proposes the most significant amendments to the Act since it was enacted. All land users in WA whose current and future activities are regulated by the Act should closely follow these reforms.
Notably, amendments are proposed to:
- Part V to remove the ‘works approvals’ provisions, with ‘licences’ instead being used to regulate ‘controlled work’ and ‘prescribed activities’;
- Part IV to vary and clarify procedural aspects of the environmental impact assessment and approval process, and allow regulations to be made to facilitate cost recovery from proponents;
- implement a new referral system for clearing permits under which the CEO will determine whether a permit is required applying specified criteria, together with other amendments to the Part V clearing permit regime;
- modify the defences available under the Act for Part V offences, including by extending the accident defence to the unauthorised clearing offence and restricting the scope of the authorisation defence, with respect to a licence, to emissions expressly authorised by that licence;
- introduce environmental protection covenants in a new Part VB which can bind owners and occupiers of the land to which the covenant applies;
- insert within new Part IXA a framework for the treatment of matters subject to a bilateral agreement with the Commonwealth under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth); and
- allow regulations to be made regarding programmes to monitor the impact on the environment of prescribed activities.
Government is seeking comments on the proposed amendments in the Draft Bill, as well as other issues stakeholders identify with the Act. Public comment is open until 28 January 2020. The Draft Bill, associated discussion paper and FAQs are available here.