The Bill includes a range of compliance and enforcement measures to boost EPA’s ability to do its job, including modernised powers for EPA Authorised Officers and improved capability for investigations.
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 proposed 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 proposed legislation would increase penalties for environmental offences from those in place now. This would bring the penalties into line with comparative legislation in other environmental schemes. They also reflect the significance that harmful impacts can have on human health and the environment. The significant penalties in the proposed legislation 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 $317,000 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 $635,000 and/or 5 years imprisonment for an individual, or $3.2 million for a corporation will apply.
The Bill also proposes two new offences that will specifically support the GED. The transitional material harm offence would deal with a person that causes material harm, attracting the same penalty as breach of the GED. A person who can prove compliance with the GED will not be liable. This offence will be phased out after four years and is in place to make sure the scheme can deal with environmental harm from the first day that it commences to operate.
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 Bill also introduces a civil penalties scheme alongside criminal penalties that will allow EPA to take more timely and proportionate enforcement action for less serious offences.