b. EPA-regulated industry performance

The Board assesses EPA programs aimed at regulating and assessing the performance of key industry sectors to reduce risks to human health and prevent environmental degradation.

The EPA is fundamentally changing its approach to regulation by developing and implementing the EPA Strategic Plan 2021–24 and EPA Regulatory Strategy 2021–24. It selects optimal regulatory approaches to achieve the best outcomes for human health and the environment. This is achieved by applying a suite of tools and legislation as the basis for strong environmental regulation that is proactive, bold, fair and appropriate. It includes licensing and working with industries that have the potential to harm the environment, and regulating industry sectors according to levels of actual or potential risk.

For this assessment, the Board focused on particular industry sectors and their performance, and how the EPA is responding.

  • For the gas sector, the EPA progressed the last outstanding recommendation of the NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer’s Independent Review of Coal Seam Gas Activities in NSW, which relates to recovering the cost of regulating and supporting the coal seam gas industry.
  • The EPA’s outcomes for the waste sector are being reframed under a waste sector delivery plan. In 2020–21 a key community and regulatory focus was responding to notable odour events associated with licensed waste facilities.
  • The EPA revised the NSW Energy from Waste Policy Statement to ensure NSW has air quality standards that meet and exceed world’s best practice for this industry. The standards ensure that wherever energy-from-waste facilities operate in NSW there are strict controls in place to protect air quality and community health.
  • Along with air quality, a high proportion of environmental reports received by the EPA in 2020–21 were about water quality (see Figure 1). The EPA regulates water discharges through environment protection licences and has been including additional conditions and programs for improving water quality.

Environmental issues and community concern

The EPA responds to reports of environmental issues, incidents and concerns. When a report is received, such as for an air, noise, water or waste issue, the EPA may investigate, inspect, take photos and samples, and collect records. It may work with councils and other agencies. In some cases, it takes other regulatory action. Figure 1 shows the types of reports of environmental issues the NSW community is concerned about.

Figure 1. Reports to the EPA by type, 2020–21

Incident type No. of reports 
Air  3,357
Water  3,300
Noise and vibration  1,327
Waste dumping  909
Land  530


Breakdown of noise and vibration reports


Breakdown of air reports


Breakdown of waste dumping reports


Breakdown of water reports


Breakdown of land reports


view of the tree-lined Murray river

Murray River, NSW. Photo: iStock


Outcomes of EPA programs regulating and assessing the performance of key industry sectors


Title Measure 2018–19 2019–20 2020–21 Status

Licence conditions

99% of environment protection licence conditions complied with (calendar year)




Pollution incident response management plans

100% of environment protection licensees have a pollution incident response management plan




Licences risk-assessed

100% of licences are risk-assessed (includes licences with an assessment due by end of financial year)




High-risk licences inspected twice

100% of high-risk licences inspected every six months*




Environmental improvement programs

Number and value of voluntary environmental improvement programs





95% of high-risk native forestry operations are assessed for compliance






90% of licensed premises in priority sectors, such as gas and waste (excluding landfills) have secure funding for environmental liabilities in place◊





Contaminated sites

100% of new significantly contaminated land declarations have had a stakeholder communications evaluation




100% of sites declared to be significantly contaminated land that have regulatory instruments, in place or under preparation, tomanage the contamination





95% of terms and conditions of approved voluntary management proposals complied with (these are proposals for voluntary site management of significantly contaminated land)






Key: ✓ achieved or on track    monitor

* 2016–17 was the first year of risk-based licensing reporting. The frequency of inspections measure was revised in 2018–19.

– Measure not reported in annual report period.

◊ The EPA is developing policy frameworks to guide its management of financial risks from environmental liabilities.

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