Compliance and enforcement

On 1 July 2015 the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) became responsible for compliance and enforcement of all conditions of approvals for gas activities in NSW, excluding work health and safety issues.

Conditions of approval are issued by the NSW Department of Industry, Division of Resources and Energy or Department of Planning and Environment when an application to explore, appraise or produce gas is approved. These conditions include strict controls which industry must comply with, to

  • protect land, water and air
  • reduce noise impacts
  • control waste management
  • manage rehabilitation and biodiversity
  • manage the use of chemicals
  • require community consultation
  • manage infrastructure and requirements for insurance and assurance.

The EPA is now responsible for determining compliance with and enforcement of these conditions.

The EPA is also responsible for regulating compliance with the codes of practice associated with the gas industry and for compliance with and enforcement of conditions of water access licences issued by the NSW Office of Water.

Controls on gas activity

Once approvals are issued by either the NSW Department of Industry, Division of Resources and Energy or Department of Planning and Environment, all gas activities also require an environment protection licence issued by the EPA. To enable this, changes have been made to environment protection legislation.

Environment protection licences set out legally enforceable, site-specific conditions and controls which holders must comply with in order to prevent and minimise pollution and safeguard the environment. This includes air, water, waste and noise requirements.

Gas activities must comply with a broad range of regulatory controls (PDF 205KB), including Acts, regulations, codes of practice, titles, approvals and other controls.

Investigations

The EPA is responsible for leading investigations of breaches of conditions. In undertaking an investigation the EPA will work with the relevant experts and NSW Government agencies.

Penalties for breaches

The EPA has a suite of tools to regulate activities so the environment is protected. Failure to comply with environmental laws or licence conditions can result in formal warnings, clean-up and prevention notices, penalty notices, legally binding pollution reduction programs and, for serious cases, enforceable undertakings or prosecution.

The EPA Compliance Policy guides EPA decisions, ensuring its compliance activities and actions are consistent, fair and credible.

The EPA Prosecution Guidelines set out the factors the EPA takes into account in deciding whether, how and in what court to prosecute offences under the legislation it administers.

Under environmental legislation, the Courts can impose significant penalties for non-compliance and can order the offender to undertake an environmental service. For example, the maximum penalty for not operating in a proper and efficient manner is $1 million. The maximum penalty for failure to report a pollution incident that threatens or causes material harm to the environment is $2 million for corporations or $500,000 for individuals.

Gas compliance statement

Following consultation over the Protection of Environment Operations Amendment Act, the EPA has prepared the Gas Compliance Statement (PDF 354KB) to help stakeholders understand the EPA's role as lead regulator for gas activities in NSW. Specifically, the Statement outlines

  • the legislative changes that gave the EPA the powers to become the lead regulator for gas activities in NSW
  • how these changes have been implemented, including details of the interagency memorandum of understanding
  • the EPA’s regulatory approach to compliance and enforcement of gas activities
  • how overlapping regulatory powers across various legislation are dealt with
  • offence types, retrospectivity, confidential information, penalties and appeals
  • reporting requirements and access to information.

Who is the Gas Compliance Statement for?

Anyone who is interested in the new regulatory arrangements for gas activities in NSW should read the gas compliance statement. This includes and is not limited to companies conducting gas activities, other government agencies and members of the community. The gas compliance statement highlights EPAs ongoing commitment to create more open dialogue with all stakeholders about its regulatory role.

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