Western Australia’s Department for Water and Environment Regulation (DWER) has provided further details on the timing and content of the third stage of major reforms to the Environmental Protection Act 1986 (WA) (EP Act), in relation to Part V, Division 3. The recently published “Discussion Paper: Reforming Environmental Regulations” (Discussion Paper), available here, sets out the reform roadmap and solicits feedback through submissions on implementation Phase.
The two previous stages of reform amended the provisions on compliance and enforcement, as well as provisions on environmental impact assessment and clearing.
- The implementation of the Environmental Protection Amendment Act 2020 in November 2020 requires the amendment of Appendix 1 of Environmental Protection Regulations 1987 (WA) (EP regulations).
- DWER intends to reduce the number of licensing transactions by reviewing current categories and streamlining certain mandatory categories. DWER also intends to create a new Part V fee framework.
The EP Act Stage 3 reforms are outlined in the Discussion Paper and are expected to include:
- Replacement of provisions in Part V Section 3 of the EP Act with new provisions in Section 61 of the EP Act Environmental Protection Amendment Act 2020 (WA) (EP Amendment Act).
- Deletion of the current requirements for premises listed in Part 2, Schedule 1 to apply for registration. This requirement will be removed when the amendments to Part V, Section 3 begin, and an investigation will be conducted to determine whether matters currently requiring registration should be addressed in a different manner.
- Eliminate the permit requirements for separate works and implement a reform of the permit system so that controlled works and prescribed activities are covered under one permit.
- Restructure Schedule 1 to exclude low-risk activities where they can be effectively regulated under the general criminal offense provisions of the EP Act.
- Restructuring of the Part V fee model to align with the reorganization of Schedule 1. This will differ from the Part IV fee model, but the Department intends to develop mechanisms to allow feedback between the two fee structures.
- Development of general emission regulations and exemption from the permitting process of activities that will later be covered by the newly developed regulations.
- Development of environmental performance targets
Other “medium-term” reforms are also outlined in the discussion paper, although some of these will be implemented in future reform phases. The expected medium-term reforms include:
- Development of standardized licenses.
- Develop appropriate policies to drive adoption of environmental performance targets.
- Modification of Annex 1 to remove activities for waste-derived materials, which can only take place once a new framework for waste-derived materials has been developed and is in place.
- Development of additional guidance that will be further developed over the course of the broader reform programme.
Finally, the discussion paper outlines “future reform initiatives” which are expected to include:
- Develop industry-specific regulations for certain activities and then remove those activities from Schedule 1.
- Streamlining cross-agency regulation of activities to avoid duplication.
What is the timetable for reforms?
The first reforms are expected to be implemented by December 2023. Work on some of the medium-term and future reform initiatives may also start before December 2023, however some of this work is expected to be completed as part of future phases of the broader reform programme.
Draft regulations are expected to be prepared for consultation throughout 2023 and finalized in December 2023.
DWER is currently seeking feedback on the proposed reforms, with written submissions accepted by Tuesday, December 13, 2022 and can be submitted here. We encourage industry to consider how the reforms may affect their operations, including considering permit strategies in relation to the planning of future work that may be captured under Part V.