The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has updated its Prosecution Guidelines which identify the factors the EPA takes into account in deciding whether to launch legal proceedings, including prosecutions, under the EPA’s environment protection legislation.
The changes include the introduction of several new factors to be considered when determining whether or not to prosecute, including the protection of human health.
Another new factor relates to environmental justice including the impact on disadvantaged communities or other vulnerable people.
EPA Chief Executive Officer Tracy Mackey said the updates will ensure the NSW EPA continues to be at the forefront of protecting the environment and the community.
“The Prosecution Guidelines help the public, entities subject to environmental regulation and other organisations understand how the EPA will exercise its prosecutorial powers and the circumstances in which it will start related legal proceedings,” Ms Mackey said.
“The harm or potential harm to human health is an important new factor that has been included, reflecting the EPA’s statutory objective to reduce human health risks, in addition to its role of protecting, restoring and enhancing the quality of the environment in NSW.”
Additionally, changes have been made to guide inter-agency collaboration when enforcing environment protection legislation.
“The changes include how the EPA works with other authorities, for instance councils and government agencies, who have the power to prosecute under environmental protection legislation,” Ms Mackey said.
“Another change includes additional detail around the liability of directors for particular environmental offences, to clarify when directors can be held accountable for offences committed by corporations,” she said.
From when the EPA was re-established in February 2012 to date, it has completed more than 600 prosecutions, resulting in the courts imposing more than $10.5 million in financial penalties. In 2019 the EPA took prosecution action in relation to a range of issues including water pollution, offensive odour, radiation control, waste, asbestos dumping and publicly reported littering.