Last month DWER released its ‘Guideline: Industry Regulation Guide to Licensing’ (Guideline) following a 12 month stakeholder consultation process.

As parts of the Guideline represent a substantial change in administrative approach, it is intended to be implemented on a staged basis. Mandatory application to some premises and applications will commence on 1 October 2019.

Content of the Guideline

The Guideline sets out DWER’s approach to the interpretation and administration of Part V Division 3 of the Environmental Protection Act 1986 (WA) with respect to works approvals and licences.

Much of the Guideline presents current DWER practice and requirements. However, notably, the Guideline establishes a new approach for prescribed premises with containment infrastructure which DWER considers may present risk. We briefly outline these new requirements below.

New report for containment infrastructure

What is required and when?

Infrastructure that is designed to contain waste and in DWER’s opinion presents environmental risk will be considered ‘critical containment infrastructure’ (CCI). Examples of CCI include ponds for the storage of leachate, wastewater and liquid waste, tailings storage facilities, vat or heap leach containment structures and engineered, lined landfill cells.

A ‘Critical Containment Infrastructure Report’ (CCIR) may be required as a condition of approval to construct or change CCI.

What must be included in a CCIR?

DWER’s intended purpose for a CCIR is to confirm that the relevant environmental controls have been properly constructed before the CCI is used. The specific information required for a CCIR is unclear at this time and is likely to vary depending on the nature of the works.

The Guideline indicates that a declaration from a professional with suitable qualifications or experience may be required to confirm that:

  • each item or component of the CCI has been constructed with no material defects; and
  • all conditions relating to the construction and installation of the CCI are satisfied.

Implications of the new requirement?

Whether or not existing and proposed infrastructure would be characterised as CCI should be taken into account in planning for Part V approvals. This is because, if a CCIR is required, while DWER is assessing the CCIR, environmental commissioning or operation of the CCI may be prohibited from commencing for a specified period. This may have a range of operational consequences, particularly for existing premises.

The length of time that the operator must wait while DWER assesses a CCIR will be specified in the relevant approval condition.

  • For low risk CCI, there may be no wait period.
  • The Guideline sets out typical assessment timeframes of 10 days for medium risk CCI and 45 days for high risk CCI.
  • In the case of engineered, lined landfill cells which are medium or high risk, the operation may be halted until the licence assessment is complete and the decision to grant or refuse is made.

Further information

The Guideline, a ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ document and further information about the Guideline is available on DWER’s website here.