The EPA is Tasmania’s principal regulator of potentially polluting activities. Its role is to ensure that activities do not have an unacceptable impact on the environment or the community and to ensure that measures are taken to protect, restore and enhance the quality of the environment.
This is achieved through compliance with State and national legislation (including Policies and Regulations), Permits and Environment Protection Notices (EPN), various guidelines, and the application of Best Practice Environmental Management, Accepted Modern Technology and adherence to the principle of continual improvement, which relates to the expectation that standards can, will and should change over time.
Setting Environmental Conditions
The Environmental Management and Pollution Control Act 1994 (EMPCA) provides for the EPA to set and enforce conditions on Level 2 activities (as defined in Schedule 2 of EMPCA), being those industrial and municipal activities considered to have a high potential for causing environmental harm, in particular through the emission of pollutants. The Act and regulations made under it, also require approvals to be in place to transport, manage and dispose of waste.
All Level 2 activities must operate in accordance with conditions set by the EPA. Following assessment, the EPA can impose conditions in permits issued by planning authorities. The environmental conditions attached to permits may be varied by issuing an Environment Protection Notice (EPN). Typically the conditions for a Level 2 activity are revised periodically, either when a new Environmental Management Plan is received or if there is a change in the nature of the operations at the site.
Enforcing Environmental Conditions
There are a range of tools available to the EPA (through the EMPCA) to regulate Industrial Activities.
Permit Compliance Audits and Site Inspections
Permit Compliance Audits are a comprehensive review of an organisation's adherence to the relevant regulatory requirements. The EPA uses compliance audits as one of its regulatory tools, to assess the extent to which a permited activity or other regulated entity is complying with its legal requirements, and to review achievable environmental standards. The frequency of audits varies according to the risk category of each level 2 activity.
Environment Protection Notices (EPN)
An EPN is one of the many regulatory tools specified in EMPCA. An EPN can be used as a regulatory instrument to ensure industry compliance with appropriate and accepted standards, and/or as a pro-active measure, requiring compliance to mitigate against the risk of environmental harm occurring.
An EPN can also be used to impose measures to ensure remediation of environmental harm. The EPN is tied to the person responsible for the environmentally relevant activity, to whom it is issued and served.
The requirements specified in the EPN relate to environmental harm prevention, control, reduction or remediation and best practice environmental management of an Environmentally Relevant Activity. These must be adhered to by the person responsible for the activity.
Environmental Infringement Notices (EIN)
Environmental Infringement Notices are fines that may be issued in relation to an alleged offence. Offences for which Infringement Notices can be issued are prescribed in legislation administered by the EPA Division, the Environmental Management and Pollution Control (Environmental Infringement Notices) Regulations 2006.
Environmental Management Plan Review (EMP Review)
EMP Reviews are a 3 or 5 yearly environmental report and the majority of medium to large premises are required to submit one. They are primarily a strategic, forward looking plan for environmental management of a site.
Annual Environmental Reviews (AER)
AERs provide an overview of monitoring, incidents and complaints over the past year.
Site Management Plans
Site Management Plans for dust, water, waste, effluent, contamination etc. are requested on a needs basis, in order to ensure the proponent has considered how potential pollution will be managed. For example an activity that has been subject of a number of odour complaints may be required to prepare and submit an odour management plan to the Director, EPA for approval. Typically compliance with the plan will specified in a Permit or EPN. There are many current Site Management Plans in place. Timeframes for submission of such reports vary, however, they are generally short term (eg months to a year).
Environmental Improvement Programs (EIPs)
An EIP is a specific programme the intent of which, when approved, is to achieve compliance with EMPCA for a particular activity by reducing environmental harm; or detailing the transition to a new environmental standard.
An environmental improvement programme is to specify the objectives to be achieved and maintained under the programme for an activity; and timeframes (not longer than three years), taking into account best practice environmental management for the activity; and the risk of environmental harm being caused by the activity; and make provision for monitoring compliance with the programme.
The Board may require a person to prepare and submit to it a draft environmental improvement programme if the Board is satisfied that an activity carried out by the person, or that activity in combination with other factors, is causing, or may cause, serious or material environmental harm; or it is not practicable for a person to comply with a State Policy, a provision of EMPCA, the regulations or an environment protection policy.
Decommissioning and Rehabilitation Plans (DRPs), Mine Closure Plans (MCPs) and Care and Maintenance Plan (CMP)
DRPs should describe in detail the proposed approach to site decommissioning and rehabilitation at the end of life of an activity. Permits generally have conditions requiring the submission of DRPs and set out the DRP requirements. In some cases the Director may issue site-specific guidelines for preparation of a DRP.
Closure Plans for mines are a little different. Mine operators are expected to submit and update (3 or 5 yearly) a MCP identifying the issues/liabilities and probable costs if closure were to occur. A DRP is more specific and is requested when closure is imminent. The DRP outlines the full costs, the works schedule, approval requirements and post closure maintenance and monitoring. The DRP must also outline any stakeholder consultation commitments.
If a mine or quarry temporarily ceases operation they are expected to submit a CMP outlining how they plan to maintain the mine while it is not in operation.