The new laws provide a range of compliance and enforcement measures to boost EPA’s ability to do its job, including modernised and improved powers for EPA authorised officers.
Read more about these measures below.
More effective investigation, enforcement and compliance
Victorians made it clear, through the Independent Inquiry into the EPA, that they want EPA to better hold polluters to account.
The new compliance and enforcement measures include:
- Modernising, clarifying and strengthening powers for EPA Authorised Officers to enter premises and investigate suspected breaches of the law.
- Improving investigation capability by providing EPA investigations access to search warrants, modern information gathering notices and access to the Surveillance Devices Act 1999.
- Higher penalties for obstructing, assaulting or impersonating an EPA Authorised Officer.
Increasing penalties and strengthening sanctions
The legislation will increase penalties for environmental offences from those in place now. This will bring the penalties into line with comparable laws. The penalties also reflect the significance that harmful impacts can have on human health and the environment, and are intended to send the message that the Victorian community will not tolerate this behaviour.
The core offence of breaching the GED will attract a penalty of up to $322,000 for an individual or $1.6 million for a corporation. For an intentional or reckless breach of the GED that results in material harm, a higher penalty of up to $644,000 and/or 5 years imprisonment for an individual, or $3.2 million for a corporation will apply.
To support the transition to a risk-based scheme, a transitional material harm offence will apply to a person that causes material harm from pollution or waste, attracting the same penalty as breach of the GED. A person who can prove compliance with the GED will not be liable for this offence, which will be phased out within four years of commencement of the Act. Penalties for illegal dumping of industrial waste will also be increased, in line with the penalties for breach of the GED. Repeat illegal dumping offenders that are not deterred by financial penalties will also be able to be imprisoned.
The Act also introduces a civil penalty scheme alongside criminal penalties that will allow EPA to take more timely and proportionate enforcement action for moderate breaches of the law.