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 ensuring compliance with legislation (including Acts and Regulations), and legal instruments such as Permits and Environment Protection Notices (EPNs).
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 certain wastes.
All Level 2 activities must operate in accordance with conditions set by the EPA. Following environmental impact assessment, the EPA can impose conditions in Permits issued by planning authorities (or where no Permit is required, in an Environment Protection Notice). Such conditions take account of relevant state and national guidelines, site-specific issues, the concepts of Best Practice Environmental Management and Accepted Modern Technology and the principle of continual improvement, which relates to the expectation that standards can, will and should change over time
The environmental conditions attached to Permits may be varied by issuing an Environment Protection Notice (EPN). The conditions for a Level 2 activity may be varied periodically, such as following an internal review 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 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 regulated entity is complying with its legal requirements. The frequency of audits varies according to the risk category of each level 2 activity, and other factors.
Environment Protection Notices (EPN)
An EPN is one of the many regulatory tools specified in EMPCA. In addition to varying Permit conditions (as described above), an EPN can be used to require remediation of environmental harm, and/or as a pro-active measure, requiring actions to prevent environmental harm occurring.
The EPN is tied to the person responsible for the environmentally relevant activity to whom it is issued and served. EPNs can be transferred.
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 EPA Tasmania, refer to the Environmental Management and Pollution Control (Environmental Infringement Notices) Regulations 2006.
Environmental Management Plans
EMPs may be required under Permit conditions. They are primarily a strategic, forward looking plan for environmental management of a regulated activity. EMPs are typically reviewed 5 yearly and the majority of medium to large premises are required to submit one.
Annual Environmental Reviews (AER)
AERs may be required under Permit conditions. AERs provide an summary of monitoring results, incidents, breaches and complaints over the preceding year.
Issue Management Plans
Management Plans for dust, water, waste, effluent, contamination, etc are requested or required on a needs basis 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 Management Plans in place and they may apply over the short or long term.
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 Plans (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.