Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2011 Week 02 Hansard (Tuesday, 8 March 2011) . . Page.. 452 ..
and social benefits of the activity, the applicant’s environmental record and relevant environment protection policies.
Currently, the provision under section 57 of the act requires an annual review of standard environmental authorisations that have been granted for an unlimited period and special authorisations granted for periods longer than one year. This requirement places an unnecessary regulatory burden on individuals, businesses and industries who utilise facilities or practices that are technologically advanced, comply with up-to-date environmental practices and have a good environmental compliance record.
The bill seeks to amend the time frame in which environmental authorisations are reviewed. The amendment would allow the EPA to review authorisations at more appropriate intervals. At the very least, a review would be conducted once every five years. However, the bill does not prevent the EPA from reviewing authorisations at any time the authorisation is in effect and does not affect the review requirements of accredited environmental authorisations.
The implementation of the bill is expected to occur on a gradual basis. The EPA anticipates incremental increases to individual authorisations based on a risk assessment approach. The time frame at which the authorisations are to be reviewed will be based on a risk assessment of the specific activity and the authorisation holder’s environmental compliance record.
Where an activity is deemed to have a relatively lower risk of environmental harm due to the inherent nature of the activity, environmental awareness, utilisation of technological advances and the authorisation holder’s good environmental record, the review period would be extended to a more appropriate period. For example, the production of concrete and concrete products would be deemed to have a lower environmental risk due to technological advances and current industry practices which have resulted in a good environmental record in the ACT.
On the other hand, the operation of a sewage treatment plant as an activity has greater environmental risk because of its potential impact. For such an activity, an environmental authorisation imposes more stringent conditions and would continue to be reviewed on an annual basis. The proposed amendment would not interfere with the standards of risk assessment for each specific activity but instead introduces more appropriate regulation resulting in a lightened regulatory burden without compromising fundamental environmental safeguards.
Introduction of the risk-based review periods for authorisations will reduce costs and will benefit the government, businesses and industries by removal of unnecessary regulatory burdens while still maintaining the safeguards provided for in the act.
Annual reduction in costs for businesses and industries would be seen through less time spent in conducting on-site inspections for annual reviews and the associated administrative costs in completing reviews annually. This would also result in benefits to government through allocation of resources to more critical environmental issues.
The introduction of the bill will bring the ACT environment protection legislation into line with its New South Wales counterpart, the Protection of the Environment