Compliance and enforcement

The EPA is the lead regulator responsible for compliance and enforcement of all conditions of approval for onshore gas activities in NSW, excluding work health and safety matters.

These conditions of approval are issued under the

  • Petroleum Onshore Act 1991 (PO Act) and issued Petroleum Exploration Licences (PELs), Petroleum Assessment Leases (PALs) and Petroleum Production Leases (PPLs). For PPLs, Development Approval is required under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 as these activities are State Significant Development (SSD).
  • Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A Act) and issued Development Approvals (DAs)
  • Water Management Act 2000 (WM Act) and issued Water Access Licences (WALs) as well as enforcing onshore gas activities with no WALs where a WAL is required
  • Water Act 1912 (Water Act) and issued Bore Licences but not including bores for groundwater monitoring or investigation under the Water Act
  • Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (POEO Act) and issued Environment Protection Licences (EPLs) as well as enforcing other provisions of the POEO Act

The EPA is not responsible for

  • the issuing of DAs, PELs, PALs, PPLs, WALs or Bore Licences and related administration of these instruments
  • WH&S issues (where the Resources Regulator is the lead regulator)
  • rehabilitation security bonds
  • pipelines that are off an EPL premises

Conditions of approval are issued by the Division of Mining, Exploration and Geoscience within the Department of Regional NSW (for PALs, PELs and PPLs), the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (for SSDs) or the Natural Resources Access Regulator (for WALs) when an application to explore, appraise or produce onshore gas is approved. These conditions include strict controls which industry must comply with to

  • protect waters, land and air and reduce noise impacts
  • manage waste
  • manage the use of chemicals
  • manage rehabilitation and biodiversity
  • manage infrastructure and requirements for insurance and assurance
  • require community consultation

Controls on gas activity

When an approval is issued, all onshore gas activities are required to hold an environment protection licence issued by the EPA.

Environment protection licences set out legally enforceable, site-specific conditions and controls which holders must comply with to prevent and minimise pollution and safeguard the community and the environment.. Onshore gas activities must comply with regulatory controls (PDF 205KB), including legislation and regulations, codes of practice, petroleum title conditions, development approval conditions and other requirements.

Investigations

The EPA leads investigations of alleged breaches of relevant conditions, and works with technical and scientific experts where required and consults with other government agencies.

Enforcement

Failure to comply with environmental laws or approval and/or EPL conditions can result in the issue of clean-up and prevention notices, or enforcement action including formal warnings, official cautions, penalty notices, legally binding pollution reduction programs attached to an EPL and, for serious cases, enforceable undertakings or prosecutions.

The Compliance Policy (PDF 454KB) guides EPA decisions, ensuring its compliance and enforcement activities and actions are consistent, fair and credible.

The Prosecution Guidelines (358KB) set out the factors the EPA takes into account in deciding whether, how and in what court to prosecute.

Courts can impose significant penalties for non-compliance and can order the offender to undertake environmental improvement works under an environmental service order or can order the offender to publicise details of the conviction in media outlets. For example, the maximum penalty for not operating control equipment in a proper and efficient manner is $1 million for a corporation and $250,000 for individuals. The maximum penalty for failure to report a pollution incident that threatens or causes material harm to the environment is $2 million for corporations or $500,000 for individuals.

Gas compliance statement

The Gas Compliance Statement (PDF 354KB) outlines

  • the legislative changes that gave the EPA the powers to become the lead regulator for onshore gas activities in NSW
  • how these changes have been implemented
  • the EPA’s approach to compliance and enforcement of onshore gas activities
  • how overlapping regulatory powers across various legislation are dealt with
  • offence types, retrospectivity, confidential information, penalties and appeals
  • reporting requirements and access to information
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