12 September, 2013

EHP's Regulation Strategy

EHP’s Regulation Strategy

Back in February 2013, the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection announced fundamental changes to the way it manages and regulates the risks to Qld’s environment and heritage places.

I believe it is prudent to understand how the current regulatory strategy has changed from past practices of the former Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM).

From the Budget Papers released in June 2013 it would appear that EHP now has less financial and human resources for regulation management than DERM did (apart from an injection of funds for Coal Seam Gas regulation).

Part of the rationale for the change in strategy includes:
·       speed up the time it takes for clients to get an approval,
·       increase the number of inspections of high-risk activities, and
·       make sure EHP are taking strong enforcement action where needed.

I have noticed a trend towards a lot less regulation and so-called “light handed regulation”, however what regulation remains is being enforced with vigour.

A selection of the department’s enforcement actions are summarised in prosecution bulletins outlining the facts and outcomes of finalised prosecutions.

The department’s annual compliance plan informs the Qld community of EHP’s planned compliance activities for the coming year.

The department monitors and reports on EHP’s compliance activities as part of its annual compliance plan program through a mid-year report and an end-of year report. The mid-year report  provides an update on the progress achieved in meeting the targets outlined in the annual compliance plan during the first and second quarters of the reporting period (July to December).

I have yet to see he end-of-year report which details all activities undertaken during the reporting period (July to June) and the outcomes of the compliance projects undertaken.

The reports provide information on the number of incidents and complaints the department has responded to as well as the enforcement actions taken during the reporting period.

EHP has also put together a short presentation about the changes to the way it manages and regulates environmental risks and how they will affect you as their client.

Since February 2013 there has been a new focus on the environmental outcomes a client must achieve.

For example, if one is required to ensure that no pollutants are released into the air, or that wastewater released to a river must meet certain quality standards, EHP will no longer assess whether a client can meet those outcomes, or how they propose to achieve them.  The responsibility now sits with you as EHP’s client.

This will now be the responsibility of the client and not the role of the department.

EHP still provide some guidance and examples on acceptable ways of managing environmental risks, but the decision on how those risks will be managed will sit with the client.

So when EHP grant a licence, the department will impose conditions that set out outcomes that the client must achieve.

EHP no longer impose conditions that tell the client how to achieve those outcomes.

For example, the department may impose a condition that contaminated stormwater must not leave a site, but it will not impose conditions that set out the design of the stormwater system needed to achieve this. The responsibility now sits with you as EHP’s client.
If you as an EHP client cannot meet the outcomes set by the department, one may face enforcement action.

Another major change, one may have noticed is be more frequent site inspections to ensure clients are complying with your licence conditions.

If one can demonstrate that one is consistently meeting the department’s requirements, EHP will inspect them less often.

I recommend one preempt EHP inspections and conduct in-house “pre-audit” inspections and provide EHP with a report.  If one is not meeting licence conditions, EHP is much more likely to carry out more frequent inspections until one lifts one’s performance to a better level.

EHP’s Clients who fail to comply with their licence, may face strong action to ensure the problem is fixed quickly.

EHP has already started making these changes to how we work to better regulate business and industry. Since February 2013 one may have noticed faster turnaround times for licences, fewer conditions, more site inspections, and tougher enforcement action.

For more information on these changes, please read the department’s regulatory strategy now available on the EHP website.

Wandoan Coal

Glencore Xstrata has officially shelved the $7b Wandoan thermal coal project in Qld amid a slump in the coal price, over-supply “and other challenges in the global coal market”.

Back in August 2011, the Mining giant was taken to the Land Court by the community based activist organisation – Friends of the Earth.  Glencore Xstrata was asked to defend the greenhouse impacts of its proposed Wandoan coal mine.  A variety of experts gave evidence concerning the impacts of Wandoan Coal mine on Qld's environment & the global climate. 

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