Cost recovery: Part IV Environmental Protection Act

The Environmental Protection (Cost Recovery) Regulations 2021 introduce fees for environmental impact assessment in Western Australia.

The Environmental Protection (Cost Recovery) Regulations 2021 (Cost Recovery Regulations) were gazetted on 17 December 2021. These regulations introduce fees and charges 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.

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 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.  
 

Frequently asked questions

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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.


Can the department recover more than its costs? 

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. 

How will the department report on the amount of fees collected and how they are used? 

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

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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.

Currently we are developing a fee calculator to help estimate fees payable.

Fees for cost recovery

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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 reference Prescribed circumstance Fee amount Frequency Timeframe for payment

s.38

Referral of proposal to the EPA     $32,000 Per 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.38C Request by proponent for approval to amend proposal $16,000  Per request On the day on which the request is made.  
s.38E Request by proponent to declare proposal a derived proposal $16,000  Per referral On the day on which the request is made. 
s.38F Request by EPA for additional information from the proponent about the proposal $16,000  Per request Within 28 days after the day on which the request was made of the proponent. 
Part IV Division 1 Assessment of a proposal       
  1. Base assessment fee $16,000  Once per proposal Within 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 proposal Within 28 days after the day the proponent is given an invoice from the CEO.
  3. Final complexity fee The 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  $16,000 Per 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 request On the day on which the request is made.
s.43A Request by proponent for approval of assessment of amended proposal  $16,000 Per request On the day on which the request is made. 
s.45C Request by proponent for approval of amendment to an approved proposal, or amendment of conditions, relating to approved proposal (or both) $48,000  Per request On the day on which the request is made. 
s.45C(2) Minister requests further information relating to an amendment requested by the proponent $16,000 Per 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 request On the day on which the EMP is submitted.
s. 46 Inquiry by EPA into implementation conditions relating to an approved proposal $64,000 Per inquiry

Within the 28 days after the day on which the proponent is given the invoice by the CEO.

s. 46A Minister issues interim conditions and procedures for a proposal $16,000 Per notice Within 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  Variable Per review Within 28 days after the day on which the proponent is given the invoice.
n/a External costs incurred by the department for the purposes of receiving or assessing a proposal Variable  Per cost incurred Within 28 days after the day on which the proponent is given the invoice by the CEO. 
n/a Assessment report provided to the Minister when the assessment had commenced but was not completed by 1 January 2022 (transitional fee) $48,000  Once per proposal Within 28 days after the day on which the proponent is given the invoice by the CEO.
n/a Annual compliance fee for each approved proposal Compliance priority rating for approved proposal:
Low – $3,500
Medium – $7,000
High – $14,000
Very high – $21,000
Once per year Within 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

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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?

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

Page reviewed 22 December 2021