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Review of the Protection of the Environment Operations (Hunter River Salinity Trading Scheme) Regulation 2002

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has completed the ten-year statutory review of the Protection of the Environment Operations (Hunter River Salinity Trading Scheme) Regulation 2002 (the Regulation).

To engage stakeholders in the review, the EPA published a comprehensive discussion paper for public consultation, which was informed by the Hunter Catchment Salinity Assessment. The EPA considered stakeholder submissions on the discussion paper in finalising the review and has now published a report with recommendations for improving the Regulation and the scheme generally. A draft Amendment Regulation has been prepared to implement the recommended changes from the review and the accompanying explanatory tables will assist you to understand the proposed changes.

The consultation period for the proposed changes to the Regulation closed on 19 February 2016. The EPA is currently working to finalise the Amendment Regulation based on stakeholder feedback and anticipates that the Regulation will commence in late 2016.

Overview of the Regulation review process

The EPA undertook a 10-year statutory review of the Protection of the Environment Operations (Hunter River Salinity Trading Scheme) Regulation 2002 (the Regulation) during 2013 and 2014.

The purpose of the review was to:

  • undertake the statutory 10-year review of the Regulation
  • improve the Regulation to make it a more effective and efficient tool for managing discharges of saline water into the Hunter River Catchment under the Hunter River Salinity Trading Scheme (the Scheme).

The key stages and steps in the review process are illustrated in the figure below.

The Regulation Review Process:

The Regulation Review Process

Hunter Catchment Salinity Assessment

In 2013, the EPA commissioned the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) to undertake a Hunter Catchment Salinity Assessment to inform the Regulation review. This involved a desk-top review and gap-analysis of available water quality data (primarily salinity/conductivity) and aquatic ecological health data in the Hunter River Catchment upstream of Singleton, to assist in the evaluation of the effectiveness of the Scheme.

The results of the Assessment have influenced many of the issues that are raised in the discussion paper.

An overview of the key findings of the Assessment is provided in Appendix B of the discussion paper.

The Salinity Assessment was released publically in late 2013, as a supporting document to the discussion paper.

Discussion paper

During late 2013 and early 2014, the EPA sought public submissions on a discussion paper (PDF 542KB) for the review of the Regulation. A public information session was also held in December 2013. The submission period for the discussion paper has closed.

The discussion paper:

  • explains why the EPA is reviewing the Regulation
  • provides a scope and framework for the review
  • provides focus questions and outlines key issues with the Regulation and the Scheme that have been identified and how they could be addressed.

Stakeholder submissions on the discussion paper

In early 2014, the EPA received 27 submissions on the discussion paper from a range of stakeholders.

Overall, the vast majority of stakeholders showed support for the scheme, recognising its significance in improving the management of saline discharges in the Hunter River catchment.

Responses from community and environment groups generally expressed the importance of not compromising or watering-down the scheme through the review of the Regulation, especially given the rapid expansion of coal mining across the catchment.

Industry submissions expressed a view that the scheme is an effective means of meeting salinity objectives in the Hunter River whilst still allowing industry to discharge saline water.

A summary of the issues raised in submissions is also provided in Appendix A of the EPA's report on the review.

Stakeholder submissions on the discussion paper

Submissions received on the discussion paper for the review of the Protection of the Environment Operations (Hunter River Salinity Trading Scheme) Regulation 2002 are available below.

In some cases, the author did not give permission for their submission to be made public and these have been excluded.

Report on the review

Following the Regulation review, the EPA prepared the report: Review of the Protection of the Environment Operations (Hunter River Salinity Trading Scheme) Regulation 2002: Report and Recommendations (PDF 1.2MB). The report was informed by submissions received during consultation on the discussion paper for the review. The report:

  • gives an overview of the review process (including consultation)
  • discusses the results of consultation and the EPA's position on the issues raised
  • makes a number of detailed recommendations and suggestions:
    1. to improve the Regulation (including to raise the current flood flow thresholds and a range of other more minor amendments)
    2. for potential improvements the general operation of the scheme
    3. for potential further investigations to support the scheme in the medium to long term.

The report was released on 18 January 2016 at the same time as a draft Amendment Regulation (below) was released for public comment.

Draft Amendment Regulation

A draft Protection of the Environment Operations (Hunter River Salinity Trading Scheme) Amendment Regulation 2016 (PDF 245KB) (the draft Amendment Regulation) was on public exhibition from 18 January 2016 until 19 February 2016. The consultation period has now closed and the EPA is considering submissions before finalising the Amendment Regulation.

These explanatory tables (PDF 231KB) will assist you to understand the proposed changes. They show how the amendments recommended through the review have been incorporated into the draft Amendment Regulation.

The draft Amendment Regulation has been prepared to implement the recommended improvements to the Regulation outlined in the report on the review. This includes amendments to raise the flood flow thresholds from 4000 to 5000 megalitre per day in the upper sector; from 6000 to 15,000 ML/day in the middle sector; and from 10,000 to 25,000 ML/day in the lower sector, and a range of other minor amendments.

The purpose of raising the flood flow threshold is to reduce the risk of simultaneous, full capacity discharges by scheme participants impacting on the Hunter River (i.e. breaching salinity targets) during flood flow conditions and to strengthen the integrity of the credit trading system. This issue is discussed in detail in the report on the review.

Further information

Email HRSTS.Review@epa.nsw.gov.au

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Page last updated: 19 August 2016