The Environment Protection Amendment Act 2018 (Vic) was this week proclaimed to commence on 1 July 2021, in line with expectations. The 2018 Act will amend the Environment Protection Act 2017 (Vic) and replace the Environment Protection Act 1970 (Vic), forming a new environment protection regime for Victoria.
The new regime will introduce a series of major reforms, shifting towards a more preventative and duties-based regime than the current, more reactive approach.
What you need to know
Key to the new regime is the introduction of the general environmental duty (GED), which requires persons engaging in an activity that may give rise to risks of harm to human health or the environment from pollution or waste to minimise those risks, so far as reasonably practicable.
Other significant reforms introduced by the new regime include:
- a duty to actively manage contaminated land;
- a duty to notify the EPA of contaminated land (notifiable contamination) and certain environmental incidents;
- a new environmental permission framework, which introduces three main tiers: licences, permits and registrations;
- an overhaul of the waste regime, including a new system of priority and reportable priority wastes and changes to disposal categories and premises authorised to receive industrial waste; and
- conferring of rights on third parties to commence certain enforcement proceedings under the Act when not satisfied with the EPA's response.
The final draft regulations, a new Environment Reference Standard and other supporting materials were released in December 2020. EPA continues to issue guidelines and other publications that will underpin, or otherwise support, the new regime, with more expected in the coming months.
Finalisation of these subordinate materials is expected before the middle of the year.
What you need to do
It is important to understand how the new regime will operate and consider whether your environmental practices and procedures need to be updated, particularly as a result of the GED and new statutory duties. It is critical to ensure that new mandatory reporting obligations, including in relation to contaminated land and environmental incidents, are addressed in updated processes and systems.
Over the last several months the EPA has been issuing draft regulations, standards, guidelines and a vast array of other publications that will underpin, or otherwise support, the new regime. It is important to be familiar with these publications, as they will assist in achieving compliance with the new regime.