Victoria’s new pollution control laws – the Environment Protection Amendment Act 2017 – will come into force on 1 July next year. The Victorian EPA and the Department of Land Environment Water and Planning have been hard at work developing the detail of the new framework.

Some important parts of the the package have recently been released for public comment:

1. Environment Protection Regulations. Among other things, these new regulations will specify which activities need to be licenced, permitted or registered under the new Act.

2. The new Environmental Reference Standards. This new instrument will replace much of the content currently found in State Environment Protection Policies. The Standards basically set out the environmental values to be protected, and benchmarks to guide the application of the new pollution control laws.

3. A draft Charter of Consultation. A new statutory requirement – the EPA is required to develop a framework for public participation under the new Act.

Full details – the Regulations, Standards, draft Charter and all the accompanying material can be found on the Engage Victoria website.

These reforms follow the 2017 Independent Inquiry into the EPA and last year’s Environment Protection Amendment legislation. The package of reforms represents the most significant overhaul of Victoria’s pollution control laws since the Environment Protection Act was first passed in 1970.

When it commences in July 2020 the new Act (the Environment Protection Act 2017) will represent a fresh mandate for the EPA to take strong action to protect all Victorian communities and the environment from the harmful effects of pollution. The Act will introduce a new comprehensive framework for pollution control based on a “general environmental duty”, a new regime for licencing and permitting of polluting activities, and an updated and modern set of enforcement powers for the EPA. All Victorians should have raised expectations for effective pollution control in Victoria based on the promise of these reforms.

The detail contained subordinate legislation like the Environment Protection Regulations and the Environmental Reference Standards will be crucial to the effectiveness of the new laws. We’re currently scrutinising the draft material carefully, and we’ll be working with a range of community groups on addressing air pollution in Victoria, dealing with the hazards from waste management facilities, improving our river health and recognising the pollution problems caused by forestry burns.

We’ll be making a detailed submission in relation to the regulations and the draft code, and we are already working with community groups in issues of interest and concern to them.

Our plan is to provide some more information about what we think is good with the reforms proposed, and any gaps or problems we identify, over the coming weeks. Submissions on the regulations and Reference Standards are due by 31 October 2019, and comments on the draft Charter of Consultation are due by 10 November 2019.

If you can make it, join us for a seminar on 14 October to help you understand how the regulations will manage air pollution, water issues, climate, and waste, so that you can make a submission. The session will also give a brief overview of the Act and how the new general environment duty will operate and will allow time for audience questions.