no image added yet.

Back in 2011 the EDO spent many months searching for information on what the EPA does – how many pollution licences it issues, how many complaints it receives from the public about pollution, how many times it follows up those complaints, whether it monitors polluting industries, how many times it prosecutes companies for breaking the law (and much more).

*Image by Esko Lius

Back in 2011 the EDO spent many months searching for information on what the EPA does – how many pollution licences it issues, how many complaints it receives from the public about pollution, how many times it follows up those complaints, whether it monitors polluting industries, how many times it prosecutes companies for breaking the law (and much more).  Information that you would expect a regulator could easily provide, and that should very much be in the public domain. In fact it was very very hard to find that information.  

The purpose of all that searching was to review how well the EPA was implementing and enforcing the laws that it works under – the Environment Protection Act 1970. It’s essential that such information is publicly available, otherwise it is impossible to hold a regulator to account, impossible to know whether they are doing their job, impossible to have any confidence that they are in fact using their powers to protect the environment on behalf of the community.  Our report, Walking The Talk? found that the EPA was not doing well at all.  At times it was impossible to know what the EPA was doing, as there was no data – certainly no publicly available data – on many of the questions we were asking. We were repeatedly told to do a freedom of information request for information that should clearly have been publicly available .

One of our strongest recommendations from our report was that the EPA should report publicly and annually on what it was doing to ensure the EP Act was being complied with by industry. At the time the EPA were already aware of significant failings in the way it did business and as part of a significant shift to improve its operations had commissioned an external review of its compliance and enforcement activity. We made our recommendations to that review also, and they were incorporated into the report (known as the Krpan report).

This year the EPA has started publicly reporting its compliance and enforcement activity. Its a useful document that clearly shows the targets that the EPA has set for itself and whether it is meeting them. The community can then decide for itself whether the EPA is doing its job. The EPA is not the only environmental regulator in Victoria, but it is the only agency reporting on its compliance and enforcement – other agencies, in particular DSE (or Dept of primary industries and environment as it is to become from 1 July) should follow suit.