Frequently asked questions: Protection of the Environment Operations (General) Regulation 2022
Any new licence application submitted on or after 1 September 2022 will need to include payment of an application fee. The fee will vary based on the type of activity the licence will cover. The prospective licensee for a premises-based licence application will need to determine which activity type they fall into and this information will be readily available on the EPA website. Fees will generally increase annually with inflation.
The fee paid to the EPA for integrated development applications (IDA) under NSW planning legislation will be treated as the first instalment of the licence application fee. This ensures that the EPA does not charge IDA proponents twice for this work.
For more information please refer to:
Yes, there is a set application fee for non-premises based transportation of trackable waste and mobile waste processing activities.
The approach is administratively simple, it will be easy to determine your application fee before you submit a licence application. The fee will be automatically calculated when you submit your application through the EPA’s online portal, eConnect.
Removing pro-rata adjustments for administrative fees
This ensures that no licensees can gain a financial advantage over other licensees, who are authorised for the same activities and scale of operation. This improves equity among licensees by ensuring those operating at the same activity scale pay the same fee.
For more information please refer to Section 8.1 of the Regulatory Impact Statement.
Collection of NPI data from reporting facilities
Under the previous Regulation, NPI reporting facilities were not required to report the amount of NPI substances used each year, however they were required to report a range of other information. This change requires NPI reporting facilities to report on the annual amount of NPI substances used; and this will allow the EPA to confirm the accuracy of reporting.
For more information please refer to Section 7.1 of the Regulatory Impact Statement.
Alternative emission estimation techniques
The Commonwealth emission estimation technique manuals are not updated regularly to reflect current techniques, industry changes and improved pollution control practices.
Under the previous Regulation, if a facility operator wished to use a different estimation method, they would need to apply to the EPA to have it approved. Each facility needed to apply individually, even if all facilities across an industry were planning to use the same updated estimation technique and/or updated emission factors. The changes enable the EPA to approve an updated technique to be used by multiple facilities. This approach will help deliver consistent and improved emissions estimates, produce more accurate data and should save facilities money over time.
A facility now has the choice to either use site-specific emission factors to calculate their emissions or alternatively, they can use an existing or updated emission estimation technique (if one is available).
For more information please refer to Section 7.2 of the Regulatory Impact Statement.
Amendments to fees – below threshold fees
The changes amend scheduled activity fee categories and amounts to clarify when a licence is (and is not) required. This ensures operators do not mistakenly think they need a licence and are required to pay fees when they have not (and will not) exceed any of the licensing thresholds, and therefore do not require a licence.
Under the previous Regulation licensees could request refunds if their actual production fell below the annual licensing threshold. This is no longer possible.
This change means that environment protection licence holders (licensees) must pay an annual administrative fee at least equal to the lowest fee scale of the highest fee paying activity, even if activity levels drop below the annual licensing threshold. If licensees find that production levels can be maintained below the licensing threshold, they can apply to surrender their licence.
For more information please refer to Section 9 of the Regulatory Impact Statement.
Approved Methods publications
The EPA’s Approved Methods publications prescribe the methodology for testing, sampling, measuring and analysing matter, including pollutant discharges and emissions. The previous Regulation only required the approved methods publication for water to be used.
The change expands the requirement to use any other relevant approved methods publications.
Building intruder alarms
The EPA always intended to have a penalty available for a breach of clause 41 of the POEO Noise Control Regulation. The EPA has fixed the oversight by inserting a penalty notice in the Regulation.
Testing of Pollution Incident Response Management Plans (PIRMPs)
Under the previous Regulation a licensee was required to test their PIRMP after ANY incident, which was not always warranted and could be onerous for licensees.
A licensee is now only required to test their PIRMP after an incident which caused or threatened material harm to the environment. However, licensees may of course choose to test their PIRMP after smaller incidents too, to ensure it remains effective.
For more information please refer to Section 8.4 of the Regulatory Impact Statement.
Penalty Notice Offences
The EPA and other appropriate regulatory authorities (ARAs) may issue an environment protection notice to address environmental harm that has occurred or is about to occur.
ARAs can recover the costs of preparing these notices from the recipient. The penalty amount for failure to pay the fee for issuing the notice was not a deterrent to the offence as it was cheaper to pay the penalty, than it was to pay the notice fee. This created a perverse incentive. The EPA has increased the penalty for not paying the fee associated with environment protection notices to remove this perverse incentive and increase the incentive for people to do the right thing and comply with the requirement to pay the notice fee in the first place.
The penalty amount has increased to $850 for an individual, which is higher than the administrative fee and the penalty now acts as a deterrent to not paying the fee. There are no changes to the penalty amount for corporations as this is already higher than the fee, at $1,000.
For more information please refer to Section 8.3 of the Regulatory Impact Statement.
Changes to Schedule 1 of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997
The definition now includes a separate threshold for public authorities, or those acting on behalf of a public authority, who undertake maintenance dredging of navigation channels.
A conversion factor from cubic metres to tonnes for wet materials extracted has also been added.
Under the previous definition for ‘extractive activities’, some activities with a moderate to high environmental risk did not require a licence; for example, where material was extracted at a quarry but not sold, or where dredged material was disposed of. The definition has been amended to ensure that extractive activities that are a moderate to high risk to the environment can be licensed and regulated by the EPA, regardless of whether the material extracted is for sale, reuse, or disposed of.
For more information about the changes made to the definition of ‘extractive activities’ refer to the extractive activities webpage.
Regardless of whether the extracted material is sold or disposed of, if your operation extracts over 30,000 tonnes per year; or 30,000m3 for public authorities (or those acting on behalf of a public authority) undertaking maintenance dredging, you will require a licence.
The conversion factor should be used to convert the amount of wet material extracted, from cubic metres to tonnes. The conversion factor is:
0.65 cubic metres = 1 tonne
If you are already licensed and extract wet material, you should consider recalculating the amount of material you expect to extract annually to ensure the scale of operations listed on your licence is correct. If it is not, you may need to apply for a licence variation.
If you are not licensed and are extracting wet material, you will need to calculate the amount of material you expect to extract annually using the conversion factor to confirm whether or not you require a licence.
If your operations extract both wet and dry materials, you will only need to apply the conversion factor to the wet materials extracted and then add the total quantity of wet and dry materials together. Where the amount exceeds 30,000 tonnes you will need to hold a licence that authorises you to carry out extractive activities.
For more information please refer to the following:
Livestock intensive activities – bird accommodation
Newer bird accommodation facilities (e.g. poultry farms) are becoming bigger and have the potential for greater environmental risk including odour, effluent management and water pollution. Greater environmental risk requires greater EPA oversight. The new scale requires licensees authorised to operate at this level to pay more in administrative fees, to cover the EPA’s expected regulatory costs. This change ensures the EPA can continue to maintain and improve its services to the community.
Petroleum products and fuel production
This amendment separates activities which have a higher environmental risk from those which have a lower environmental risk by creating two sub-categories. This allows for an appropriate level of regulation and corresponding fees for each sub-category.
Existing licensees need to review their activity and the amended definition to determine which scheduled activity they fall into and apply for a licence variation.
Prospective licensees will need to determine which scheduled activity they fall into when applying for a licence. Different annual fees apply for the different scheduled activities.
For more information please refer to Section 10.2 of the Regulatory Impact Statement.
Shipping in bulk
This amendment adds additional materials that are commonly shipped in bulk, such as sand and soil, to this scheduled activity definition. Shipping these additional materials has similar environmental and human health risks as shipping other materials already included in this definition.
All substances that are shipped in bulk have the potential to negatively impact:
- air quality (particularly during windy conditions) during loading, unloading or handling
- water quality if spilt during loading, unloading or handling, and
- by generating noise during loading, unloading or handling.
These changes ensure that facilities with similar environmental risk, will be regulated consistently by the EPA; even if the shipping in bulk operations involve different materials.
Some new operators will require an environment protection licence and will be subject to licence application and compliance costs.
For more information please refer to Section 10.3 of the Regulatory Impact Statement.
Waste generation activities
This ensures consistency between the POEO Act and POEO General Regulation. It clarifies how waste should be measured at a site. This makes it more practical for licensees to ensure they are meeting their requirements and more straightforward for the EPA to carry out its compliance and enforcement functions.
These changes do not capture a broader range of activities. However, it is possible that some existing licensees may drop to a lower fee category or move to a higher fee category. Licensees will need to determine whether the scale of the licensed waste generation activity is still accurate, based on “volume of waste stored at any one time”.
For more information please refer to Section 8.2 of the Regulatory Impact Statement.
Aquaculture and mariculture
This change excludes operations that grow bivalve molluscs and seaweed propagules from the need to hold an environment protection licence for ‘aquaculture and mariculture’ in recognition of the negligible environmental impact of this industry. Oysters continue to be excluded. As they are a bivalve mollusc, they are no longer listed separately.
A broader range of activities no longer require a licence under the new definition of ‘aquaculture and mariculture’. Existing licensees need to determine whether a licence is still required for their activities. If a licence is not required, the licensee can request a licence surrender. Prospective licensees will need to determine whether a licence is required under the amended definition.