On 1 July 2021 the new Environment Protection Amendment Act2018 (the ‘Act’) will come into effect. Now the operation of the new legislation is imminent it is timely to ensure you are well prepared.
The Act has subordinate legislation including Environment Protection Regulations (the ‘Regulations’) and Environmental Reference Standards (ERS), and Compliance Codes (e.g. codes of practice). The Regulations provide the detailed requirements regarding aspects such as: contaminated land, permissions, waste management, environmental management, environmental audits and financial assurances. The ERS provide the standards to which the environment is to be maintained and are intended to replace the existing State Environment Protection Policies. Details of the new legislation can be accessed from Environment Protection Authority Victoria’s (EPA’s) website at https://www.epa.vic.gov.au/newlaws.
Key provisions of the new legislation and the potential impacts for business are:
General Environmental Duty(GED) - if an activity poses a risk to human health and/or the environment from air, land, water or noise pollution, or waste, the risks must be evaluated, assessed, and minimised, so far as reasonably practicable. The methodology for the GED is akin to the established processes businesses have to evaluate occupational health and safety risks, and would also consider the other duties outlined below;
Duty to manage contaminated land - a person in management or control of contaminated land must minimise risks of harm to human health and/or the environment from the contaminated land so far as reasonably practicable. This means that businesses will be required to investigate and/or assess any indicated or potential land contamination at their sites, and then implement appropriate management actions to minimise the risks of harm; and
Duty to notify of contaminated land - a person in management or control of land must notify the EPA if the land has been contaminated by ‘notifiable contamination’ as soon as practicable. Benchmarks for this include any contamination which is above health based investigation levels, presence of separate phase contamination on groundwater, or when contamination is likely to cost $50,000 or more to investigate and clean-up would require direct notification to EPA. Examples could potentially include fuel/oil leaks and spills that are not minor, legacy contamination at a site, buried wastes or contaminated fill, etc.
Permissions - Any activities prescribed in Schedule 1 of the Regulations require one of three types of ‘permission’ based on the potential environmental risk associated with activity. The permissions include: Licences (high risk activities), Permits (medium risk activities) and Registrations (low risk activities). Some activities that had not previously been regulated may now need a licence, permit or registration under the Act (e.g. dry cleaning operations, service stations etc.).
Compliance Codes - Compliance codes are yet to be published, however, it is expected that compliance codes based on EPA’s ‘Best Practice Environmental Guideline’ series would be among the first compliance codes to be issued.
Peter J Ramsay & Associates can assist your business in preparing for, and meeting the obligations your business has under the new Act, based on our extensive experience in environmental audits, soil and groundwater contamination assessments for due diligence, waste management and risk assessments.
Our firm can assist you with:
Assessing the hazards and severity of the risks present at your facility/place of business;
Implementing controls to eliminate or reduce the risks, and reviewing the controls established to ensure that these are effective and compliant;
Implementing preliminary site investigations (or detailed site assessments) for potential contamination; and
Environmental audits of industrial facilities and environmental management systems, and land; and other Auditing functions (e.g. Auditing of construction or operation of landfills as required by licence conditions).
Should you have any queries about how to prepare for the new Act or how it may impact your business, please don’t hesitate to contact Mr Mark Van Schoten or Mr Chris Trim on (03)9690 0522.