MINES and other polluting industries that consistently breach environmental guidelines will face a raft of tougher penalties about to be considered by state cabinet.
The Environment Protection Authority is finalising a wide-ranging review of the state’s environmental protection licensing framework.
‘‘We need to ensure that penalty amounts are consistent, proportionate and set sufficiently high to act as a deterrent to committing environmental offences and reoffending, and that the EPA and the courts have access to an appropriate and consistent range of sentencing mechanisms,’’ Environment Minister Robyn Parker said.
The government is also considering introducing harsher penalties for repeat offenders, increasing maximum penalty and penalty notice amounts for a range of offences, extending the reach of restorative justice processes and extending the use of enforceable undertakings, including to the regulation of contaminated land.
The introduction of risk-based licensing is designed to ensure all environment protection licences receive appropriate regulation based on the level of risk they pose to individuals and the environment.
The system includes incentives to improve environmental performance and compliance.
Companies that invest in programs to reduce environmental risk or improve environmental performance will be rewarded and those that perform poorly would be penalised.
The information will be used to determine a licence holder’s environmental management category.
The category will be used to calculate the new licence administrative fee.
‘‘Local Government NSW has provided strong support for the proposals,’’ Ms Parker said.
‘‘The scheme will allow the EPA to better focus its regulatory efforts on high-risk and poor-performing licensees. High-risk licensees may be subject to a higher level of regulatory oversight, and where appropriate be required to undertake enhanced monitoring and reporting to the EPA. Poor environmental performers will also pay increased annual licence fees.’’
The EPA has also proposed to enhance its ability to use enforceable undertakings.
Used as an alternative to court proceedings, enforceable undertakings provide an opportunity for a guilty person or company to address the impact of the offence.
Wambo Coal agreed to pay $30,000 to Singleton Shire Council last month for river rehabilitation works as part of an enforceable undertaking that followed a sediment discharge.
‘‘A potential example of restorative enforceable undertaking projects is apparent in the engagement by the EPA with Stockton residents around the Orica incidents.
‘‘If found guilty Orica may be required to fund a number of environmental service orders in local areas affected,’’ Ms Parker said.