Amendments to the Environmental Protection Act 1986

The Environmental Protection Amendment Act 2020 is the most significant reform of Western Australia’s environmental legislation in more than 30 years. It introduces a raft of amendments to Western Australia’s primary environmental legislation – the Environmental Protection Act 1986 (EP Act).
Australian wildflowers with a golden kangaroo paw featured at the front

These amendments aim to improve regulatory efficiency and effectiveness and facilitate the implementation of the bilateral agreements under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). This will deliver better environmental protection that will benefit our community and future generations of Western Australians.

Some of the key amendments include:

  • streamlining the Part IV environmental impact assessment process
  • introducing cost recovery provisions relating to Part IV
  • creating more efficiency, flexibility and transparency for clearing native vegetation while ensuring the protection of native vegetation with important environmental values
  • improving the efficiency of regulation of emissions and discharges
  • modernising and improving defences, investigation and enforcement powers, and providing for enhanced modified penalties
  • introducing the ability for the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (the department) to require a clearing permit holder or a Part IV proponent to give an environmental protection covenant
  • introducing environmental monitoring programs to address cumulative environmental impacts in particular areas or from certain industries, and to recover the costs of monitoring
  • enabling bilateral assessment and approval agreements under the EPBC Act, including fees for cost recovery.

The amendments were drawn from reviews and recommendations by expert advisory groups and informed by the views and comments received through public consultation.

Implementation 

The reforms are significant so the amendments are being introduced through a staged approach.

EPA Amendment Stages

The department is developing regulations and guidance which will support the effective implementation of amendments being proclaimed under each stage.

Stakeholders will be invited to input into the development of these instruments as each stage progresses. Further information on each stage and opportunities to provide input is available below.

Stage 1

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Status:

Proclamation of amendments under Stage 1 was completed on 2 February 2021.

Summary of amendments proclaimed:

These amendments:

  • modernise and streamline provisions
  • create cost recovery head powers under Part IV of the EP Act
  • create head powers for a scheme for accreditation of environmental practitioners
  • expand enforcement and evidence gathering powers
  • create flexibility in timeframes for serving infringement notices.

Regulations and guidance to support these amendments:

Regulations and guidance documents being developed include:

Environmental Protection (Cost Recovery) Regulations – prescribing fees associated requirements for the referral, assessment and implementation of proposals under Part IV, Division 1 and 2 of the EP Act. Consultation will be undertaken and finalisation of the regulations will be completed later in 2021.

Further information on their status and opportunities to comment on their development is available under the ‘Have Your Say’ tab.

Stage 2

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Status:

Proclamation of amendments under Stage 2 will occur in the second half of 2021.

Summary of amendments to be proclaimed:

These amendments will:

  • facilitate an approval bilateral agreement with the Australian Government
  • enable regulations to be made to declare Environmentally Sensitive Areas
  • modernise, streamline and create more flexibility for referral, amendment and implementation of significant and strategic proposals under Part IV of the EP Act
  • create a new process for referrals of native vegetation clearing
  • include other clearing provision improvements.

 

Regulations and guidance to support these amendments:

Regulations and guidance documents being developed include:

  • EPA Procedures – The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) is revising its Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) procedures suite to implement changes to Part IV, Divisions 1 and 2.
  • Guideline – Native vegetation referrals – Information on the new clearing referrals process. 
  • Publication and Confidentiality Regulations –set out publishing and confidentiality requirements for documents submitted under the EP Act.
  • Bilateral Agreements Regulations – set out procedures for a person to apply for a matter to be dealt with as a bilateral matter under the new Part VIIIA of the EP Act.

Further information on their status and opportunities to comment on their development is available under the ‘Have Your Say’ tab.

Stage 3

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Status:

Proclamation of amendments under Stage 3 is expected to occur at the end of 2022.

Summary of amendments to be proclaimed:

These amendments will:

  • implement the ‘prescribed activity’ regime under the new Part V Division 3, including reviewing and replacing Schedule 1 licensing categories
  • create head powers for establishing environmental monitoring programs in regulations
  • include provisions for the management of offset funds.

Regulations to support these amendments:

Upcoming projects to support amendments to be proclaimed under Stage 3 will include:

  • establishing the prescribed manner for the CEO to notify each owner or occupier of land subject to a proposed Environmentally Sensitive Area
  • declaring Environmentally Sensitive Areas for the purposes of Part V Division 2 of the EP Act
  • implementing amendments to Schedule 6 Clause 1 of the EP Act
  • prescribed fees for applications for amendments of environmental protection covenants
  • identifying the classes of proposals under Part IV that should be prescribed
  • establishing a voluntary accreditation framework for environmental practitioners
  • establishing environmental monitoring programs
  • regulations in relation to moneys paid or contributed under the EP Act Part IV implementation condition to contribute moneys for environmental protection abatement or restoration
  • amending Schedule 1 of the EP Regulations to refer to prescribed activities, with licensing categories consolidated and modernised. Industry licensing fees will also be reviewed to accommodate the EP Act amendments, and to implement cost recovery.

Further information on their status and opportunities to comment on their development will become available under the ‘Have Your Say’ tab.

Have your say

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Current consultations:

Summary of regulations or guidance

Opened

Closed

Cost Recovery for Part IV Environmental Protection Act, 1986 20 September 2021 22 October 2021

Closed consultations:

Summary of regulations or guidance

Opened

Closed

Bilateral Agreements Regulations – which set out procedures for a person to apply for a matter to be dealt with as a bilateral matter under the new Part VIIIA of the EP Act. 24 August 2021 14 September 2021

Publication and Confidentiality Regulations – which set out publishing and confidentiality requirements for documents submitted under the EP Act.

24 August 2021 7 September 2021

Guideline – Native vegetation referrals – Information on the new clearing referrals process. 

30 June 2021

31 July 2021

EPA Procedures – Revisions to the EPA’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) procedures suite (consultation undertaken by the EPA).

23 April 2021

31 May 2021

Environmental Protection Act 1986 amendments consultation

28 October 2019

28 January 2020

Page reviewed 20 September 2021