Proposed New Pollution Legislation in NSW: Background and Commentary
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Advice on legislation or legal policy issues contained in this paper is provided for use in parliamentary debate and for related parliamentary purposes. This paper is not professional legal opinion.
Briefing Paper No. 05/1997 by Stewart Smith
- This paper presents a brief history of pollution control enforcement and the development of public welfare offences (pages 3-5).
- Section 2.1 describes some modern approaches to pollution control, including command backed by threat, long stop and fundamental values. The long stop regime is typical in regard to environmental offences. This regime acts within a system of administrative regulation which relies on licences or permits to pollute. Enforcement agencies are able to issue directions to individual licence holders and in consultation with licence holders establish the pollution licence limits. Within this administrative complex, prosecution and sanctioning are rarely used tools, commonly used as a last resort (page 6).
- In 1991 the Protection of the Environment Administration Act heralded the beginning of a new era of environment protection. The State Pollution Control Commission, which tended to focus on end of pipe' pollution control strategies, was replaced by a revamped and more powerful Environment Protection Authority (page 7).
- The reform of pollution control in NSW was to be done in two stages. The first was the creation of the EPA, the second was the reform of the State's pollution control legislation. This became known as the EPA Stage II legislation, and a draft exposure bill was released by the government in December 1996.
- The Protection of the Environment Operations Bill replaces the Clean Air Act 1961, Pollution Control Act 1970, Noise Control Act 1975 and the Environmental Offences and Penalties Act 1989 (page 8).
- The Bill includes protection of the environment policies (pages 9-12), reforms pollution licensing (pages 12-14 ), continues provisions for environment protection notices (page 15), reforms and introduces new environment protection offences (pages 15-22 ), introduces a new section on environmental auditing (page 22 ), reforms pollution control enforcement procedures (page 23) and attempts to integrate the pollution licensing process with the development assessment process (page 25).
- Whilst all commentators agree that the reform of pollution control legislation is necessary, there have been both positive and negative comments about aspects of the Bill. However, the introduction of the proposed reforms is likely to lead to a greatly enhanced ability for the EPA to protect our environment. Comments on the draft exposure bill are invited until mid-April, and it is expected that the government will present a final bill to Parliament in the second half of 1997.