The Western Australian Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER) have released further detail relating to the timing and content of the third stage of significant reforms to the Environmental Protection Act 1986 (WA) (EP Act), relating to Part V, Division 3. The recently released “Discussion paper: Environmental regulation reform” (Discussion Paper) available here sets out the reform road map and invites feedback by way of submissions on the implementation of this stage.

The two previous stages of reform have involved changes to provisions for compliance and enforcement, as well as to environmental impact assessment and clearing provisions.

Snapshot

  • The implementation of the reforms passed in the Environmental Protection Amendment Act 2020 in November 2020 requires the amendment of Schedule 1 of the Environmental Protection Regulations 1987 (WA) (EP Regulations).
  • DWER intends to reduce the number of licensing transactions by reviewing the current categories and rationalising specific prescribed categories. DWER also intends to create a new Part V fees framework.

Staged amendments

The Stage 3 EP Act reforms are outlined in the Discussion Paper and are anticipated to comprise:

  • Replacement of provisions under Part V Division 3 of the EP Act with new provisions outlined in section 61 of the Environmental Protection Amendment Act 2020 (WA) (EP Amendment Act).
  • Removal of current requirements for premises that are listed in Part 2, Schedule 1 to apply for a registration. This requirement will be removed upon commencement of the amendments to Part V Division 3, and an investigation will be undertaken to ascertain whether any matters currently requiring registration should be regulated through other means.
  • Removal of separate works approval requirements and implementing reform to the licensing regime so that controlled works and prescribed activities are regulated under one licence.
  • Restructuring Schedule 1 to exclude low-risk activities where they can be effectively regulated under the general offence provisions of the EP Act.
  • Restructuring the Part V Fee Model to align with the Schedule 1 restructure. This will differ from the Part IV fee model, but the Department intends to develop mechanisms that will allow feedback to pass between the two fee structures.
  • Development of General Emissions Regulations and removing activities from the licensing regime that are subsequently covered by the newly developed regulations.
  • Development of Environmental Performance Objectives

Further “mid-term” reforms are also outlined in the Discussion Paper, although some of these will be undertaken in future phases of reform. The anticipated mid-term reforms comprise:

  • Developing standardised licences.
  • Developing appropriate guidelines to drive the adoption of Environmental Performance Objectives.
  • Amending Schedule 1 by removing waste derived material activities, which can only occur once a new waste derived material framework has been developed and is in place.
  • Development of additional guidance documents that will evolve over the broader reform program.

Finally, the Discussion Paper outlines “future reform initiatives”, which are anticipated to include:

  • Development of Industry Specific Regulations for certain activities and subsequent removal of those activities from Schedule 1.
  • Streamlining regulation of activities across agencies for the purpose of avoiding duplication.

What is the timeline for reforms?

The initial reforms are expected to be delivered by December 2023. Work may also begin on some of the mid-term and future reform initiatives before December 2023, however, it is anticipated that some of this work will occur as part of future phases of the broader reform program.

Draft regulations are expected to be prepared for consultation during 2023 and finalised in December 2023.

Next steps

DWER is currently seeking feedback on the proposed reforms, with written submissions being accepted until Tuesday 13 December 2022 and can be submitted here. We recommend that industry consider how the reforms may impact their operations, including consideration of approvals strategies relating to the planning of future works which may be captured under Part V.

For further information please contact Melanie Debenham or Naomi Hutchings.

Melanie Debenham
Melanie Debenham
Partner, Perth
61 8 9211 7560
Naomi Hutchings
Naomi Hutchings
Special Counsel, Perth
61 8 9211 7795