Consultation has just finished on the draft regulations under Victoria’s new Environment Protection Act – the state’s new pollution laws.

We recently held a seminar to engage the community in the proposed regulations and help people make submissions. Tim Eaton, Director of Knowledge, Standards and Assessment at the Victorian EPA spoke about the new legal regime that will come into force in July 2020 and the draft regulations that are currently open for public comment. And, our CEO, Brendan Sydes, gave a history of the reforms and EJA’s views on the new laws. Participants asked many insightful questions about how the new laws will impact our air, water, land and greenhouse emissions.

Big shifts in environmental law

Two of the biggest shifts under the new laws will be the new General Environmental Duty (GED) and the end of State Environment Protection Policies (SEPPs).

The GED requires that any person or business in Victoria who is engaging in an activity that may give rise to risks of harm to human health or the environment from pollution or waste, must minimise those risks so far as is reasonably practicable. The rationale for the GED is to expand the focus from a small number of significantly polluting activities to include sources of pollution that are smaller but that cumulate significantly.

What the new regulations tell us is that the EPA’s approach to the new laws is to allow the GED to do the heavy lifting. The regulations are only given work to do where there is a high risk to human health or the environment (i.e. large polluters or highly volatile air pollutants); or where it is clear what steps needs to be taken with respect to a particular risk (i.e. contaminated land).

SEPPs will be replaced with regulations and an Environmental Reference Standard (ERS) which will set out non-binding policy goals and settings that the EPA will use to help guide their decisions.

How you can get involved

A lot of hard work has been done, but there remains significant work ahead.  The significant reliance on the GED will require a large commitment to implementation by the EPA.

The EP Act 2017 and its subordinate regulations will come into force on 1 July 2020

The EPA’s proposed charter of consultation – how they propose to consult with the community on major issues – is also open for public consultation until 10 November be sure to make a submission if you engage with the EPA.