Regulating chemicals in NSW

Chemicals are regulated in NSW under a range of legislation related to specific industries or risks.

The EPA is responsible for administering this legislation, in partnership with other state government agencies.

Environmentally Hazardous Chemicals Act

While chemicals and their use are regulated in several ways, the Environmentally Hazardous Chemicals Act 1985 (EHC Act) is the primary legislation for specifically regulating environmentally hazardous chemicals throughout their life cycle. The Act sets out requirements for

  • chemical control orders (CCOs) which are used to manage specified hazardous chemicals and chemical wastes – there are five existing CCOs in NSW which are currently being reviewed
  • technology assessments, which ensure that premises treating or destroying chemicals are safe and appropriate for their purpose
  • licensing of individuals or industries who manage chemicals that are subject to a CCO.

The introduction of new regulatory frameworks since the EHC Act commenced have led to changes in the way some chemicals are regulated.

  • Assessments of new and existing industrial chemicals are undertaken by the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS)
  • Contaminated sites, air and water pollution, and waste management are regulated under other specific NSW legislation
  • Pesticide control and use is regulated under other specific NSW legislation.

Review of the Environmentally Hazardous Chemicals Act 

The EPA is reviewing the EHC Act to take into account

  • the emergence of new technologies
  • new and emerging environmentally hazardous chemical issues.

The Proposed Reforms to Environmentally Hazardous Chemicals Legislation - Discussion Paper (PDF 324KB) was released for public comment in July and August 2015. The EPA received 10 submissions.

Proposed changes include

  • establishing transparent schedules of environmentally hazardous chemicals, to which the EHC Act's legislative controls would apply – one schedule will adopt nationally agreed environment controls for particular chemicals
  • enabling the EPA to convene an ad-hoc independent expert advisory panel or call on an independent expert when required, and recover costs from those benefitting from this expertise where appropriate
  • abolishing the obsolete Hazardous Chemicals Advisory Committee
  • providing the independent EPA Board with the power to grant an exemption from provisions of the EHC Act in line with the exemption power that already exists under the Pesticides Act 1999 and the POEO Act
  • removing dual licensing requirement where a licensee holds an environment protection licence issued under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (POEO Act) relating to an activity or premises involving a chemical for which they also hold an EHC licence. If the two licences relate to the same activity as licensed under Schedule 1 of the POEO Act at the same premises they may be combined
  • enabling regulations or CCOs to include notification requirements for specified chemicals
  • replacing the current preamble to the Act with an objects section to bring the Act in line with modern legislation, and updating definitions

Other NSW legislation

In addition to the EHC Act, the EPA and other government agencies regulate chemicals under other legislation.

Legislation administered by Department of Primary Industries (DPI)

Legislation relating to food, health and work safety

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