This week, the Victorian Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and the Department of Environment , Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) have released draft regulations and other subordinate instruments required under the Environment Protection Act 2017 (Vic) (New EP Act) for public input, providing an insight into the EPA’s proposed approach to many features of Victoria’s new environment protection framework. Importantly, these materials are open for public comment until 31 October 2019. For more information, including if you would wish to make a submission, please click here.

Background

The New EP Act, as amended by the Environment Protection Amendment Act 2018 (Vic), will replace the Environment Protection Act 1970 (Vic). It will overhaul the existing regime and will include many new aspects, such as duties relating to environment protection and management of contamination, an updated permissions regime and broader opportunities for the involvement of third parties, both with respect to the granting of permissions and enforcement. For a more detailed summary of the New EP Act, please see our previous note here.

The new regime is proposed to take effect from 1 July 2020.

What has been released for consultation?

A useful overview of the proposed subordinate instruments and how the measures in the new environment protection framework relate to each other is available from Engage Victoria here. The draft instruments and other documents released this week include the following:

DocumentComment
Environment Protection Regulations (EP Regulations)The EP Regulations provide further detail as to a variety of features under the new EP Act, whereby the framework places greater emphasis on the prevention of environmental harm through a broad range of duties, including in particular the general environmental duty.

Significantly, the EP Regulations include further information as to the EPA’s proposed approach to (among other things):

  • the new duty to report contamination, including thresholds, exemptions and the EPA’s information requirements when reporting;
  • the prescribed activities which will be regulated by the new tiered permissions regime, along with the information requirements and procedures associated with those permissions;
  • an updated framework for waste management responsibilities and classifications;
  • the management of specific environmental impacts, including emissions, noise and in relation to water;
  • the new environmental audit system, including financial assurances;
  • enforcement mechanisms, namely infringements, the calculation of monetary benefits and offences for which councils may take action; and
  • the establishment of a new public register.

Saving and transitional provisions are also included, primarily concerning existing authorisations and applications in place at the time of transition to the New EP Act.

Environmental Reference Standard (ERS)The EPA is also seeking feedback on an Exposure Draft of the ERS. The ERS provides benchmarks to assess and report on environmental conditions in the whole or any part of Victoria, including by:

  • identifying environmental values that specify the environmental condition to be achieved or maintained in the whole or any part of Victoria; and
  • specifying indicators and objectives to be used to measure, determine or assess whether those environmental values are being achieved, maintained or threatened.

One important aspect of the ERS is the inclusion of climate systems as an environmental value to be protected under the new regime.

The ERS is a reference standard and does not provide for mandatory compliance requirements. However, the ERS will be afforded considerable weight in respect of certain decisions, including the assessment of development or operating licence applications. The ERS is proposed to come into operation on 1 July 2020.

 

Environment Protection Transitional Regulations (Transitional Regulations)

In addition, the EPA has provided an Exposure Draft of the Transitional Regulations, which provide for transitional and savings arrangements for two years to 30 June 2022 in relation to:

  • certain provisions of the State Environment Protection Policy (Waters);
  • Waste classifications of specific application issued under regulation 11 of the Environment Protection (Industrial Waste Resource) Regulations 2009 (Vic); and
  • Approved motor vehicle testers and motor vehicle certificates of compliance under the Environment Protection Act 1970 (Vic).
Summary of the proposed noise framework

and

Summary of the proposed waste framework

Summaries of the proposed noise framework and waste framework are also available on Engage Victoria for comment.

Next steps

If you would like to make a submission, you may do so via Engage Victoria at this link. The period for public comment is open until 31 October 2019.

Please feel free to contact a member of our team if you have any questions regarding the new environment protection framework or if you would like assistance making a submission.

Heidi Asten
Heidi Asten
Partner, Melbourne
+61 3 9288 1710
David Griffin
David Griffin
Senior Associate, Melbourne
+61 3 9288 1629
Wesley Taylor
Wesley Taylor
Senior Associate, Melbourne
+61 3 9288 1701
Thomas Ellicott
Thomas Ellicott
Senior Associate, Melbourne
+61 3 9288 1721
Ellen Tarasenko
Ellen Tarasenko
Senior Associate, Melbourne
+61 3 9288 1575