New year, tough new enviro laws

NEW penalties for environmental offences are now in place in NSW, with the Protection of the Environment Legislation Amendment Act 2014 taking effect on January 1.

Jacqueline Ong

Among other things, the key changes include clarifying a legislative requirement for industry to prevent or minimise fugitive air emissions, such as particulate emissions from coal mines and quarries.

Other changes include:

  • An almost 10-fold increase in Contaminated Land Management Act penalties. The maximum penalty for a corporation not complying with EPA direction will rise from $137,000 to $1 million;
  • Clean-up notices can now be given to landowners as well as occupiers to ensure clean-up costs can be recovered in the event of a polluter’s insolvency. This would otherwise be funded by the taxpayer. Landowners who are innocent victims of illegal dumping will not be targeted;
  • A duty to report pollution incidents, causing or likely to cause material harm, involving odour;
  • The EPA will be able to require problem waste transporters to install a GPS tracking device on their vehicles; and
  • The additional sentencing option of a restorative justice order, which brings together an offender and a victim to agree on measures to repair harm caused.

NSW Environment Minister Rob Stokes said the new measures would enhance the capabilities of the EPA and the courts.

"These changes will add to the NSW government's already formidable suite of legislation to protect the environment, protect human health and crack down on those who do the wrong thing," Stokes said.

"NSW has the toughest environmental protections in the country, and we have worked hard to ensure the NSW Environmental Protection Authority is a feared and respected environmental watchdog."