In brief - Government tackles environmental crime with increase in scale of on-the-spot fines

NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) penalty notice amounts have increased tenfold to $7,500 for individuals and $15,000 for corporations, signalling the state government's determination to tackle environmental crime.

Changes particularly affect waste industry, manufacturers and holders of Environment Protection Licence (EPL)

The introduction of the Protection of the Environment Operations (General) Amendment (Fees and Penalty Notices) Regulation 2014 No.564 (NSW) on 29 August 2014 now gives local councils and the NSW EPA the ability to issue increased penalty notices for environmental offences in NSW. The increase arises as a result of a push by the NSW government to have greater regulatory powers to tackle environmental crime.

All Environment Protection Licence (EPL) holders and persons in the waste industry, in manufacturing and other industries should particularly take note of the changes.

Increase in penalties for a range of environmental offences

NSW EPA Penalty Notice amounts have been increased tenfold to $7,500 for individuals and $15,000 for corporations (up from $750 for individuals and $1,500 for corporations) for the following offences under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 NSW (POEO Act):

  • Occupiers of premises who carry out scheduled premises-based activities without an EPL.
  • Persons who carry out scheduled non-premises based activities without an EPL.
  • EPL holders who contravene EPL conditions (except by failing to submit annual returns, which attracts a lower penalty).
  • Persons served with clean up notices who do not comply without a reasonable excuse, or persons who do not comply with prevention notices.
  • Persons who pollute waters or land.
  • Occupiers who emit air impurities in excess of prescribed concentrations.
  • Persons who transport asbestos waste or hazardous waste or any other waste greater than one cubic metre in volume or two tonnes in weight, to a place that cannot be used as a waste facility.
  • Owners or occupiers who use or cause or permit a place to be used as a waste facility without lawful authority.

Increase in scale of NSW Local Council Penalty Notice amounts

NSW Local Council Penalty Notice amounts are now $4,000 for individuals and $8,000 for corporations for the above offences.

Additionally, for the remaining 19 serious types of environmental offences under the POEO Act, NSW EPA Penalty Notice amounts are now $4,000 for individuals and $8,000 for corporations; Council Penalty Notice amounts are now $2,000 for individuals and $4,000 for corporations.

Expected increase in court appeals of penalty notices

As a result of the above, we expect to see an increase in appeals of penalty notices to the courts. If you are issued with a penalty notice or require further advice in relation to the above, please do not hesitate to contact us.

This is commentary published by Colin Biggers & Paisley for general information purposes only. This should not be relied on as specific advice. You should seek your own legal and other advice for any question, or for any specific situation or proposal, before making any final decision. The content also is subject to change. A person listed may not be admitted as a lawyer in all States and Territories. © Colin Biggers & Paisley, Australia 2019.

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