Cost recovery: Part IV Environmental Protection Act

The Environmental Protection (Cost Recovery) Regulations 2021 introduce fees for environmental impact assessment in Western Australia.
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The Environmental Protection (Cost Recovery) Regulations 2021 (Cost Recovery Regulations) were gazetted on 17 December 2021. These regulations introduce fees and charges for the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER) to recover costs for proposals referred to the Environmental Protection Authority under Part IV Divisions 1 and 2 of the Environmental Protection Act 1986 (the Act).

The Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (the department) has developed a cost recovery model to implement fees and charges for the environmental impact assessment (EIA) process. The model will enable the State Government to meet the expectations of industry and the community in protecting the environment. The department will use the funding received to provide an effective service while ensuring strong environmental protection remains.

FAQs - annual compliance fees and withdrawal

Withdrawal of Ministerial Statements

Who is eligible to request withdrawal of a Ministerial Statement under section 47A of the EP Act?

Any proponent who has a Ministerial Statement and believes that:

a) the proposal has been implemented and conditions have been complied with, or no longer need to be complied with

b) where impacts of the implementation can be satisfactorily mitigated by way of licensing or some other form of control.

How do I reqest a withdrawal of a Ministerial Statement under section 47A of the EP Act?

Use the section 47A Request to withdraw a Ministerial Statement form on the Instructions, templates and forms page of the EPA’s website.

The instruction and form outlines various questions, including a descripition of the proposal (and amendments), stage of implementation, five-year history and current status of compliance with the Ministerial Statement, a report on the current environmental performance of the approved proposal, and the reason/details of the withdrawal request. Instructions to complete the form are also provided.

Who decides if the Ministerial Statement can be withdrawn?

The Minister for Environment has delegated this decision to the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (the department).

To ensure consistency and access to the most up-to-date information, we ask you to provide summary information. Some Ministerial Statements have also been in place for many years, and we may not have recent information on these.

The department is establishing a team to assess and determine applications to withdraw Ministerial Statements in a timely manner. The assessment period will vary depending on the complexity of each case. You will be notified once a decision is made.

If my application to withdraw is refused, can I appeal the decision?

No, you cannot appeal the refusal of a withdraw application. 

If your application to withdraw your Ministerial Statement is refused, you will receive an Annual Compliance Fee invoice for the amount due based on your Compliance Priority Rating. Payment will be due within 28 days. 

Annual compliance fees

Active proposals – those which have been substantially commenced and are currently being implemented.

Inactive proposals – those which have not substantially commenced or have been fully implemented.

Why do I need to pay Annual Compliance Fees for my Ministerial Statement when I haven’t previously?

The commencement of the Environmental Protection (Cost Recovery) Regulations 2021 (the Regulations) introduced annual compliance fees for approved proposals under Part IV of the Environmental Protection Act 1986 (EP Act).

There was a transitional period for annual compliance fees. Annual compliance fees become payable from 1 July 2023.

The Regulations have been designed to enable the State Government to better meet the expectations of industry and the community in protecting the environment. The funding received will be used by the department to provide timely and effective service while ensuring that there remains strong environmental protection.

No. One annual compliance fee will be applied for the primary contemporary Ministerial Statement of each proposal.

If a proponent has multiple proposals, an annual compliance fee will be payable for each proposal.

How is the annual compliance fee calculated?

The Regulations specify that the annual compliance fee payable is based on a Compliance Priority Rating for an approved proposal. The Compliance Priority Rating is determined by the department’s Chief Executive Officer using the Interim Guideline: Determination of Compliance Priority Rating for Cost Recovery (Interim Guideline) and taking into consideration:

  • the risk to the environment of implementing the proposal
  • the complexity of the proposal
  • the level of on-going compliance by the proponent.

For the 2023–24 period the department will use the Interim Guideline to establish the Compliance Priority Rating of proposals. This Interim Guideline will be subject to review and consultation through 2023–24 so key stakeholders including all proponents will have an opportunity to provide feedback on the department’s on-going approach to determining the Compliance Priority Rating.

How much are the annual compliance fees?

The annual compliance fees specified in the Regulations are shown below.

Compliance Priority Rating Annual compliance fee ($)
Low 3,500
Medium 7,000
High 14,000
Very high 21,000

When will I be invoiced for my annual compliance fee?

The department is implementing the annual compliance fees in a staged manner over the coming months. Initially, ‘active’ approved proposals will be invoiced their fee, followed by all other approved proposals.

Do I have to pay my annual compliance fee if I’ve applied for my Ministerial Statement to be withdrawn?

Fees will continue to be due for ‘active’ proposals even where an application to withdraw the Ministerial Statement has been submitted. This is because the department will continue to undertake compliance activities in relation to these proposals until any application to withdraw has been approved.

In relation to ‘inactive’ proposals the department:

  • will not invoice annual compliance fees for 2023–24 where an application to withdraw the Ministerial Statement(s) for a proposal has been submitted* by 30 September 2023; should the application subsequently be refused, annual compliance fees will be invoiced
  • will invoice annual compliance fees for 2023–24 where an application to withdraw the Ministerial Statement(s) for a proposal has not been submitted by 30 September 2023.

*Submissions must be on the correct application form, contain the required information and be submitted by 5pm on 30 September 2023.

Can I appeal my Compliance Priority Rating and the fees I need to pay?

The Compliance Priority Rating and annual compliance fee is calculated in accordance with the Interim Guideline.

The Regulations do not contain provisions to appeal your Compliance Priority Rating or fees payable.

If you think your Compliance Priority Rating has been incorrectly assessed, please email compliance@dwer.wa.gov.au

You have 28 days. 

FAQs - assessment

When does cost recovery begin?

Regulations outlining fees and charges were gazetted on 17 December 2021 and will come into effect on 1 January 2022. Fees for compliance activities will come into effect on 1 July 2023. A policy outlining fees for compliance activities will be prepared for 1 July 2022.

Why do you need to charge for assessments?

The introduction of a cost recovery model for EIA is a step towards sharing the cost of protecting the environment between the community and those who obtain a benefit from environmental assessments. 

Cost recovery will enable the State Government to better meet the expectations of industry and the community in protecting the environment. The department will use the funding received to provide an effective service while ensuring strong environmental protection remains.

Does this mean the assessment of my proposal will be quicker?

Other reforms, which are well underway – including changes to the EPA’s procedures, amendments to the EP Act and the introduction of Environmental Online – will mean assessments are completed in a more efficient manner. 

Access to recovered funds will enhance the department’s capacity to meet demand for assessment services during peak times. Resourcing will be able to be scaled up and down to match demand. 

How much will it cost proponents for an environmental impact assessment?

The cost of undertaking an assessment of a new proposal will vary depending on the level of assessment and the complexity of individual proposals.  The average cost of an assessment is expected to be approximately $448,000.

Invoicing of fees will be staggered throughout the assessment process. Proponents will only be expected to pay the fees for each stage of the EIA process as they are triggered. Payment of fixed fees is triggered when proponents request specific activities. 

See the full list of fees and an explanation and examples of how the fees will be charged in the implementation policy.

The powers provided under s48AA of the EP Act do not provide for the department to recover more than it costs to operate the scheme. Recovered funds are to be held in a special purpose account which is subject to the auditing and reporting requirements of the Office of the Auditor General. Annual revenue and expenditure will be published in the department’s annual report. 

How have the fees been decided, and do they reflect an accurate assessment of cost?

The fees are based on a cost model which reflects approximately 80 per cent of the cost of undertaking environmental assessments. The cost model was developed by an experienced consultant and reviewed by EY, which found that the methodology and assumptions applied by the department were ‘logical and reasonable’. 

The cost model will be independently reviewed after 18 months and made publicly available. The review will draw on a full financial year of data to assess whether the cost model continues to accurately reflect the cost of assessments. 

What are the key stages for charging?

Fixed, variable and compliance fees will be payable at various milestones during the EIA process. 

These charging points include referral, determination, assessment, EPA report on recommendations, and implementation. View a complete table of fees

Will a proponent be charged for changing a proposal after it has been approved?

Yes. The proponent must pay a fee of $48,000 if they request an approval of an amendment to an approved proposal, or amendment of conditions relating to an approved proposal, or both under s.45C of the EP Act.  

Will there be a transition period for industry or will charges begin in their entirety on 1 January?

Yes. Fees will not be charged retrospectively for work completed prior to 1 January. Proposals currently submitted and under assessment will only need to pay a fee of $48,000 for the preparation of the EPA report and recommendations. Other fees apply for additional requests and for proposals not yet at Stage 3 of the EIA process. 

For proponents with proposals referred prior to 1 January 2022, payment of fees due between 1 January and 30 June 2022 will be deferred until 1 July 2022. This is to assist proponents with potential budget cycle impacts during the transition period.

See Section 7 of the implementation policy for further information and explanation. 

Will charging for assessments be a disincentive for individuals and community groups to refer projects to the EPA?

Third-party referrers will not be charged, but where a third-party referral leads to a decision to formally assess a proposal, proponents will be required to pay. 

The department will publish revenue and expenditure, as well as the number of assessments, in its annual report. Reporting will be based on an annual evaluation. This will enable tracking and reporting of recovery and inform future reviews of fees and charges. Data on assessment activity will underpin these evaluations. A digital environmental impact assessment database (Environment Online) will become operational for Part IV of the EP Act in the first quarter of 2022. This will allow for more efficient and accurate collection of data relating to assessments.

Does everyone have to pay?

The regulations provide the department’s Director General with the discretion to consider fee reductions, waivers, refunds and extensions of time to pay Part IV fees and charges. 

See Section 6 of the implementation policy for an outline of these special circumstances.

Fee estimator

The cost of assessments vary depending on how complex each proposal is.

See a table of fixed fees and a table for complexity fees for requests under Part IV of the Act.

Please visit the EPA Fee Calculator within Environment Online to estimate fees payable.

Fees for cost recovery

Table of fees for cost recovery for requests under the Part IV of the Environmental Protection Act 1986 and as prescribed in the Environmental Protection (Cost Recovery) Regulations 2021.

EP Act referencePrescribed circumstanceFee amountFrequencyTimeframe for payment
s.38Referral of proposal to the EPA    $32,000Per referral
  • Proponent-referred: fee is payable on the day of referral.
  • Proponent-referred in accordance with a requirement under s38A(1) of the EP Act: fee is payable within 28 days after notice is given to the proponent that the EPA has decided to assess the proposal.
  • Referral by third-party: fee is payable within 28 days after notice is given to the proponent that the EPA has decided to assess the proposal.
s.38CRequest by proponent for approval to amend proposal$16,000 Per requestOn the day on which the request is made.  
s.38ERequest by proponent to declare proposal a derived proposal$16,000 Per referralOn the day on which the request is made. 
s.38FRequest by EPA for additional information from the proponent about the proposal$16,000 Per requestWithin 28 days after the day on which the request was made of the proponent. 
Part IV Division 1Assessment of a proposal    
 1. Base assessment fee$16,000 Once per proposalWithin 28 days after the day the proponent is given an invoice from the CEO.
 2. Estimated complexity fee  80% of the amount determined by the CEO under r. 5 for costs of the Department in assessing the proposal Once per proposalWithin 28 days after the day the proponent is given an invoice from the CEO.
 3. Final complexity feeThe total amount determined by the CEO under r. 5 for costs of the department in assessing the proposal LESS the estimated complexity fee.    
Once per proposal
 
Once per proposal

Within 28 days after the day the proponent is given an invoice from the CEO.

The CEO will determine the final complexity fee as soon as practicable after the EPA has provided its report to the Minister or the assessment is terminated. (Note: if the final complexity fee is less than estimated complexity fee, the CEO will refund the difference.)

s.40(2)(a)              Request by EPA for additional information from a proponent for the assessment of referred proposals $16,000Per request Within 28 days after the day on which the requirement was made of the proponent.
s.41A(3)Request by proponent for consent to minor or preliminary works relating to a proposal$16,000 Per requestOn the day on which the request is made.
s.43ARequest by proponent for approval of assessment of amended proposal $16,000Per requestOn the day on which the request is made. 
s.45CRequest by proponent for approval of amendment to an approved proposal, or amendment of conditions, relating to approved proposal (or both)$48,000 Per requestOn the day on which the request is made. 
s.45C(2)Minister requests further information relating to an amendment requested by the proponent$16,000Per request    Within 28 days after the day on which the request was made of the proponent.
 Submission of an EMP  for confirmation, endorsement or approval under implementation conditions applying in relation to a proposal $16,000 Per requestOn the day on which the EMP is submitted.
s. 46Inquiry by EPA into implementation conditions relating to an approved proposal$64,000Per inquiryWithin the 28 days after the day on which the proponent is given the invoice by the CEO.
s. 46AMinister issues interim conditions and procedures for a proposal$16,000Per noticeWithin 28 days after the day on which the proponent is given notice of the interim conditions and procedures.
s.40(2a)Independent peer review commissioned by the EPA VariablePer reviewWithin 28 days after the day on which the proponent is given the invoice.
n/aExternal costs incurred by the department for the purposes of receiving or assessing a proposalVariable Per cost incurredWithin 28 days after the day on which the proponent is given the invoice by the CEO. 
n/aAssessment report provided to the Minister when the assessment had commenced but was not completed by 1 January 2022 (transitional fee)$48,000 Once per proposalWithin 28 days after the day on which the proponent is given the invoice by the CEO.
n/aAnnual compliance fee for each approved proposalCompliance priority rating for approved proposal:
Low – $3,500
Medium – $7,000
High – $14,000
Very high – $21,000
Once per yearWithin 28 days after the day on which the proponent is given the invoice by the CEO. 
 
     

[1] In r. 3 and EMP refers to an environmental management plan, environmental management system or environmental improvement plan.

Fees for complexity component of assessment fee

Each fee unit in this table is charged at $16,000.

Reg 5(3) Characteristics of referred proposal Applicable fee units
(a) Strategic proposal: proposal is a strategic proposal. 3
(c) Commonwealth-accredited assessment process: proposal, or an aspect of the proposal, is assessed under an accredited assessment process (approved by the Commonwealth) under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. 2
(i)(i) Public comment on proposal: one or more public submissions were received during the seven-day public comment period. 1
(d) Environmental review document: the proponent undertakes an environmental review and reports to the EPA under s. 40(2)(b) of the Act.   1
(e) Proponent-prepared scoping document: a scoping document is prepared for an environmental review under s. 40(2)(b) of the Act by the proponent. 1
  EPA-prepared scoping document: a scoping document is prepared for an environmental review under s. 40(2)(b) of the Act by the EPA. 2
(g) Public comment on assessment on referral information required: proposal and referral information made available for public comment. 2
(h) Public comment on assessment on environmental review document required: public comment required on the environmental review document under s.40(5) of the Act. 2
(i)(ii) Extent of public comment on scoping document: number of public submissions received on proponent-prepared scoping document.  
 
  • 1–49
1
 
  • 50 or more
2
(i)(i), (i)(iii) Extent of public comment on assessment information: number of public submissions received on the environmental review document or referral information.       
 
  • 1–49
1
 
  • 50 or more
2
(j) Key environmental factors: number of key environmental factors identified in the EPA’s decision whether to assess and in the EPA’s assessment report under s.44 of the EP Act.     3 per key environmental factor 
(k) Consultation on conditions: the EPA engaged in consultation on conditions recommended in the EPA’s assessment report under s. 44 of the EP Act.    
(l) Environmental offset required: the EPA’s assessment report under s. 44 of the EP Act recommends one or more conditions imposing environmental offsets.
(n) Disturbance footprint: the project’s disturbance footprint exceeds 2,500 hectares of land.
(o) Species or ecological communities: greater than 10 species or ecological communities in relation to which assessment of the impact of implementing the proposal, and assessment of ongoing investigation or management requirements, is needed.
  Total fee units Total fee units
  Fee per fee unit $16,000
 

TOTAL COMPLEXITY FEE FOR ASSESSMENT

(i.e. total fee units multiplied by fee per fee unit)

Total fee units x $16,000

 

[2]     Species or ecological communities include threatened species or threatened ecological communities, as defined in the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 section 5(1), or listed threatened species or listed threatened ecological communities, as defined in the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999; new or undescribed species; species or ecological communities categorised as Priority 1 or 2 under the Conservation Codes at https://www.dpaw.wa.gov.au/images/documents/plants-animals/threatened-species/Listings/Conservation%20code%20definitions.pdf; vegetation units of regional significance; and stygofaunal or troglofaunal communities.

Who can help me with my query?

For further information on cost recovery and how it may apply to your proposal, please complete the form below:

Consultation

In October 2019, the State Government released a discussion paper and sought community and industry feedback on proposed amendments to the Environmental Protection Act 1986 (the Act). One of the proposed amendments was to include a head power to enable the Department to implement cost recovery for activities under Part IV of the Act.

Consultation on changes to the Act was completed in January 2020. The department received 101 written submissions and additional feedback from industry, community groups, individuals and government agencies. Feedback from the consultation was incorporated into the amendment Bills. 

Over a public consultation period of five weeks (20 September 2021 to 22 October 2021), the department sought feedback on the proposed fees and charges outlined in the discussion paper Implementing cost recovery for Part IV of the Environmental Protection Act 1986 and consultation draft regulations.   

After the discussion paper and draft regulations were released, the department held seven briefing sessions with peak industry organisations. We received 28 submissions during the consultation period. 

A consultation summary report is available on the department’s consultation hub

During the consultation period, the department extended an offer to stakeholders to join a further briefing on the pricing model, with a focus on the financial information used to develop the fees.

The department used the feedback from the consultation process to inform the final fees, the Policy: Implementing the Environmental Protection (Cost Recovery) Regulations 2021 (implementation policy) and the final Environmental Protection (Cost Recovery) Regulations.