The Victorian Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, Lily D’Ambrosio, has introduced the long awaited Environment Protection Amendment Bill 2018 (Bill) into State Parliament today. Representing the biggest environmental regulatory shake-up in Victoria in decades, this overview summarises key reforms arising from the Bill.

This Bill will completely replace the Environment Protection Act 1970 (Vic) (EP Act), and is intended to implement key reforms in the Government’s response to the 2016 Inquiry into the Environment Protection Authority (EPA).

The Bill introduces a new scheme for the regulation of the impacts of pollution, waste and contaminated land on human health and the environment focussed on minimising risks. Central to this scheme is a general preventative duty to minimise the risks of harm to human health and the environment arising from pollution and waste.

If passed this year the scheme has a long implementation period, with full implementation to occur no later than 1 December 2020.

Key reform highlights

New duties and obligations

  • New principles of environment protection by streamlining and rationalising principles in the EP Act.
  • New general preventative duty.
  • New duty to notify the EPA of certain pollution incidents.

Authorisations

  • New tiered permissions framework to replace Works Approvals and EPA Licences which will focus on managing risks of certain activities rather than licences for prescribed premises.

Offences

  • Aggravated offences in relation to material environmental harm

Enforcement

  • New functions and general powers of the EPA
  • New remediation direction powers: improvement, prohibition and environment action notices
  • Introduction of a civil penalties regimes, and other changes to penalties and sanctions
  • Step in and cost recovery powers
  • Environmental audit reforms

Supporting instruments

  • Abolishment of State Environment Protection Policies and Waste Management Policies, to be replaced by environment reference standards
  • Introduction of compliance codes and position statements

Remedies

  • Third party civil remedies

Waste

  • Introduction of a new risk-based tiered waste framework
  • Further reforms applicable to landfills, operational and former industrial sites, contaminated land and other sites such as orders that run with the land.

What does this mean for you?

Industries and businesses will need to be mindful of transitional provisions as proposed by the Bill, as these new regimes come into effect. Affected industries and businesses will need to review their practices in relation to the management of the risks arising from pollution and waste from their activities, and, if necessary, put in place new compliance procedures.