Industrial emissions

Discover how the EPA measures and regulates emissions from industry - through legislation, air emissions standards and licensing. Read our studies and policies about these emissions, and learn about the obligations of industries.

Licensed or scheduled industries

Industrial activities listed in Schedule 1 of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (POEO Act) are those with the potential to have a significant impact on the environment.  The EPA regulates these activities through environment protection licences, pollution reduction programs, load-based licensing (also applies to water pollution), and targeted policies.

The EPA has conducted a review of the air emissions and licensing requirements for base load power stations in NSW. The review also examined emission estimation and reporting under the National Pollutant Inventory.

The review involved detailed analysis of large amounts of monitoring data and information. The review found that there were few instances of non-compliance with regulatory requirements and those non-compliances will be further considered. There was no evidence of misreporting or deliberate under reporting of air emissions. The review did find that there are inconsistencies in regulatory requirements that should be eliminated where possible and that while sampling and monitoring is carried out in accordance with standards and requirements, there are opportunities for improvement.

To find out more about the review, see the report on the review (PDF 858KB) and its attachments


Obligations to avoid air pollution are set out in Part 5.4 of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997. Industries must

  • operate and maintain plant correctly
  • carry out work responsibly
  • process, handle, and store materials properly and efficiently

Industries undertaking scheduled activities must also

  • comply with air emission standards
  • protect the community from odour

The Act sets maximum penalties for air pollution offences of

  • $1,000,000 for a corporation, plus up to $120,000 per day for a continuing offence
  • $250,000 for an individual, plus up to $60,000 per day for a continuing offence

Maximum limits for emissions of air pollutants from industry in NSW are contained in Part 5 of the Protection of the Environment Operations (Clean Air) Regulation.

See the detailed guide containing more information about Part 5.

Where monitoring is required, industries in NSW must use specified methods to measure air pollutant emissions from their premises.

The emission limits in Part 5 are a minimum standard and do not account for site-specific features such as meteorology, terrain, and background air quality.  

Odour can affect public amenity and a community’s quality of life. The EPA has developed a policy framework and accompanying technical notes to help industry work with local government and the EPA to prevent, minimise, and manage industrial and commercial sources of odour.

Scheduled industries complete air quality impact assessments to

  • determine whether some locations need lower emission limits than the minimum standards specified in Part 5 of the Protection of the Environment Operations (Clean Air) Regulation, taking into account site-specific features such as meteorology, terrain and background air quality
  • determine air quality impacts in the area around the premises including any odour impacts and whether these impacts are less than the impact assessment criteria
  • get development approval to carry out a scheduled activity
  • meet some local council requirements for non-scheduled activities
  • identify the effectiveness of proposed methods for reducing emissions of air pollutants, including odour

Assessments must be conducted in accordance with the approved methods for modelling and assessing air pollutants.

Methane is a naturally occurring gas in the earth’s atmosphere.  It is a greenhouse gas and can be hazardous in high concentrations, so it is important to minimise methane emissions from industrial sources.

The EPA commissioned the CSIRO to investigate major sources of fugitive methane emissions in NSW. The CSIRO’s findings have

  • quantified background concentrations of methane in NSW
  • established methane emissions from various land uses
  • created a snapshot of key methane sources
  • developed a set of monitoring methods

The EPA will use the results of the study to guide future research projects, focus regulatory priorities and identify methane emission sources as part of complex air emissions investigations.

Gas-fired cogeneration can be one of the most greenhouse-friendly forms of electricity generation using fossil fuels.  However, cogeneration has the potential to adversely affect local and regional air quality as it can emit significant amounts of oxides of nitrogen (NOx).

The EPA has published a policy that sets out the framework for managing NOx emissions from co-generation and tri-generation.  The policy

  • explains best available techniques to reduce emissions
  • sets particular emission limits for gas-fired reciprocating internal combustion engines burning up to 7 megajoules per second of fuel

Emission limits for other technologies and industries will be developed as they are needed.


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