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AELERT Research and Publications Initiative

26/06/2015

A new AELERT initiative is underway that aims to support members to easily share their activities and learnings.

The Research and Publications Initiative (RP&I) allows AELERT to develop and collate publications from our members, including products from conferences and workshops, in-house research and cluster work.

The RP&I recognises the benefits of producing a network-wide ‘regulatory narrative’, and has been endorsed by the AELERT Steering Committee for an initial trial period of 18 months.

Practitioners and member agencies can contribute stories relating to their successes, challenges and lessons learned in the following formats:

  • A 500-700 word snapshot, providing a brief overview or summary of a topic or learning.
  • A 1500 -2000 word article that describes an issue, initiative or project, including the drivers/catalyst for the project, the challenges faced, the actions taken and the outcomes and learnings.
  • Each AELERT jurisdiction is initially being asked to produce a minimum of one publication per year, contributing to a cohesive representation of regulatory trends and common issues across the network, and identifying areas for collaboration and shared learning.

    Members interested in contributing an article should contact their AELERT Jurisdictional Representative or Grant Pink, the project lead. Other members of the RP&I project team are:

  • Tony Circelli, South Australian EPA (AELERT Chair)
  • Robyn Bartel, University of New England (Senior Lecturer, Affiliate Member of AELERT)
  • Rob White, University of Tasmania (Professor, Affiliate Member of AELERT).
  • Further information regarding the RP&I Template and Article Submission Process can be found in the AELERT Resource Library. Member login is required.

    Big data for big results

    23/06/2015

    Big data; a buzzword of the modern technological era, and a powerful tool in the fight against environmental crime.

    It represents a new "collect everything" approach to data gathering, monitoring and intelligence, allowing analysts to detect previously unseen patterns and trends.

    Charlotte Davies, UK Crime Analyst at the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), knows all about big data and will be speaking at the 2015 AELERT Conference. She'll detail her own experience using crime analysis and big data to thwart the black market trade of big cats in Asia and ivory, and EIA’s interest in combating illegal logging, pollution and species loss.

    You'll discover how vast quantities of information generated through social networks, videos, photos, mobile phones and the web, can reveal hidden links between criminals and illegal activity. Register for the 2015 AELERT Conference and learn how to use simple and sophisticated intelligence at all levels.

    Want to know more about Big Data?

  • Read about how Big Data is being used by US police agencies.
  • Read this IBM paper about how EIA is using Big Data to fight Environmental Crime.
  • A new approach to managing established pests and diseases

    23/06/2015

    Regulatory Area: Biosecurity Jurisdiction: Australia (national)

    The Australian Government Department of Agriculture, on behalf of the National Biosecurity Committee, is inviting comments on a paper which discusses new ideas to manage established weeds, pests and diseases that have significant impact at a national level.

    The discussion paper, Modernising Australia’s Approach to Managing Established Pests and Diseases of National Significance, gives an overview of the proposed approach and considers the ways in which governments, industry and landholders can collaboratively tackle these threats. The agreed approach, following a consultation process, will be incorporated into future national biosecurity strategies and plans, including the Australian Pest Animal Strategy and the Australian Weeds Strategy, both of which are currently under revision.

    The paper first provides a summary of Australia’s current biosecurity arrangements, outlining that landholders are primarily responsible for the management of established pests and diseases, and that individual governments have their own separate policies and procedures which are consistent with their jurisdiction’s legislation. The paper suggests that while this approach can be effective for a number of pests and diseases, many others would benefit from a more co-ordinated approach.

    The paper also highlights the high investment currently required of governments in managing existing pests and diseases which cannot ever be eradicated, and suggests that this thereby reduces their ability to invest in other biosecurity management measures, such as prevention.

    Part three of the paper outlines a proposed framework for dealing with these diseases and pests, and suggests policy principles to guide management actions, including focusing onshore management on asset based protection, where government supports industry and community action. Additionally, part three proposes a ‘national significance test’ and ‘national interest test’ which combine to guide how governments respond to individual pests and diseases. The significance test identifies which pests and diseases require national intervention or management. The criteria suggested include impacts on human, economic and environmental health. The interest test determines whether management of the pest of disease is justifiable, recognising that in some cases a pest/disease may have a significant national impact, but the return on an intervention strategy does not exceed the cost of implementing it.

    The paper concludes by outlining the roles and responsibilities of government and other stakeholders, to support efficient collaboration. Broadly speaking, Government responsibilities are minimal in regard to on-ground response, particularly regarding regulatory measures and enforcement actions. Instead, the focus on government shifts more to prevention, including supporting the adoption of risk management measures into everyday business practice, supporting research into improved control programs and facilitating coordinated policies across jurisdictions when pest and disease management is required. The paper suggests that landholders and industry take a stronger role in controlling and minimising the impacts of pests and diseases in relation to their own assets, and including risk mitigating measures, such as containment, into their normal practices.

    The paper also provides case studies that demonstrate collaborative approaches to pest and disease management, including the National Wild Dog Action plan, where responsibility is shared between landholders, communities, industry and government. In this instance it was the role of the Government to support industry and community-led action and to support research for more effective pest management. This replaced previous fragmented management programs that were often constrained by jurisdictional boundaries.

    The discussion paper is open for public consultation until 31 July 2015. The paper and information on how to make a submission are available on the Department of Agriculture website.

    Great Barrier Reef polluters prosecuted

    15/06/2015

    Regulatory Area: Pollution response Jurisdiction: Commonwealth

    Two shipping companies have been prosecuted and fined a combined $12, 000 for separate marine pollution incidents in the Great Barrier Reef. Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) Chief Executive Officer, Mick Kinley, said that it was disappointing that ships weren't adhering to measures to protect sensitive marine areas, like the Great Barrier Reef. Both prosecutions resulted from routine Port State Control (PSC) inspections, which Mr Kinley says shows that Australia's PSC regime is effective.

    Hong Kong based company Seaspan Corporation was found guilty of illegally dumping garbage within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park in August 2014. The discharge was discovered by an AMSA marine surveyor during a routing PSC inspection at Fisherman Island. Seaspan Corpotation was fined $6000 for the offense under the Protection of the Sea (Prevention of Pollution from Ships) Act 1983, and the ship's master was fined $600. AMSA also found that the ship's passage plan did not meet the required marine environmental protection measures prescribed under the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) international convention.

    In the second offense, which occurred in October 2014, Tokyo based Perses Maritime Ltd was found guilty of illegally discharging 0.03m3 of food waste. A record of the discharge was detected by an AMSA marine surveyor during a routine PSC inspection in the Port of Brisbane. Perses Maritima Ltd was fined $5000, while the master of the ship was fine $500.

    For more information, read the official AMSA Media Release.

    14 new officers 'on the beat' for EPA Victoria

    15/06/2015

    Regulatory Area: Training Jurisdiction: Victoria

    Fourteen new Authorised Officers have joined the ranks of the Environment Protection Authority Victoria, operating in metro and rural areas including Bendigo, Wangaratta, Geelong and Melbourne.

    They join an EPA force of 100 Authorised Officers, after they graduated from training in May. The intensive training took 12 weeks to complete, and involved time in the classroom and in the field. Hands-on training included business inspections, water and soil sampling and odour investigations.

    Cheryl Batagol, Chairman of EPA, said that this "significant investment in our people strengthens our ability to protect the environment for current and future generations".

    Officers in Victoria must complete a review every two years to remain authorised, and undertake ongoing development and training.

    For more information, read the official media release.

    $129K in penalties for illegal asbestos dumping (NSW)

    15/06/2015

    Regulatory Area: Pollution control, illegal dumping Jurisdiction: New South Wales

    Over $129, 000 in penalties have been issued following the successful prosecution of an illegal dumping case by NSW Environment Protection Authority. More than 3600 tonnes of asbestos contaminated soil was taken from a Shell refinery in Rosehill and dumped at a property on Mangrove Mountain, NSW.

    EPA prosecuted Mathew Laison for the incident, sole trader of Laison Plant Hire and Haulage, under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act. Mr Laison pleaded guilty to the charge, and was fined $63, 000 plus legal costs of $40, 000.

    Steve Beaman, Director of Waste and Resource Recovery at NSW EPA, said that the defendant "showed no regard for the risk to human life in the transportation and dumping of the asbestos contaminated soil”.

    A business partner of Mr Laison was also prosecuted for permitting the illegal dumping, and for attempting to cover-up its disposal by supplying fraudulent dockets. He was fined $24, 000 for the illegal disposal, and $12, 000 for supplying false information. He was additionally ordered to pay EPA's legal costs.

    The result reminds property owners that they are responsible for not accepting illegal and contaminated waste on their land. The prosecutions contribute to EPA's commitment to stamping out illegal dumping activities in NSW, with a commitment of $58 million over five years to the initative.

    For more information, read the official media release.

    What's biosecurity worth to the average farmer? $17K!

    11/06/2015

    Regulatory Area: Biosecurity Jurisdiction: Australia-wide

    The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) has calculated the value of Australia's biosecurity system to the agriculture sector, estimating that the average farmer saves between $12,000 and $17,500.

    The figures were estimated as the on-farm costs and losses that would occur if current biosecurity measures were not in place, referencing six potentially significant agricultural threats: Foot and Mouth Disease, Mexican feather grass, citrus greening, highly pathogenic avian influenza, Karnal bunt and red imported fire ants.

    Costs avoided by farms include damage mitigation, production losses and export market losses. The report found that farmers incur significant costs and losses following incursion by a pest, weed or disease. Biosecurity measures prevent these costs through activities that target the pathways through which pests, diseases and weeds enter, become established and spread throughout Australia. ABARES Executive Director Karen Schneider said that these figures were likely to be conservative, as they were based only on top-level threats and diseases affecting farming.

    Want to find out more?

  • Read the full report
  • Read the official media release
  • US EPA fracking study provides guidance for regulators

    10/06/2015

    Regulatory Area: Mining, pollution impact Jurisdiction: International (US)

    Assessment shows hydraulic fracturing activities have not led to widespread, systemic impacts to drinking water resources and identifies important vulnerabilities to drinking water resources.” –US EPA news release (4 June 2015)

    The United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) has released a draft assessment on the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on drinking water resources. This assessment is the first to review the available evidence for the impacts of fracking on drinking water, and provides a scientific basis for regulatory decisions at the US Federal, State, local and industry level.

    The assessment was ordered by the US Congress following widespread public concern about fracking, and local resident reports of changes to their water quality. A range of scientific literature was reviewed in the process, including published papers, technical reports, stakeholder data and US EPA scientific reports. All stages of the fracking water cycle (see image) were considered in the report. [caption id="attachment_3115" align="alignright" width="300"]Source: US EPA Source: US EPA[/caption]

    The US EPA did not find any evidence that fracking activities have led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources. It did, however, find a selection of specific instances where fracking impacted drinking water, mainly relating to well integrity and waste water management. These cases occurred during routine activities and through accidents, including spills of hydraulic fracturing fluid, discharge of fracking waste water and below ground movement of fluids and gas. However, the US EPA indicates that these instances were uncommon compared to the large number of fracking wells operating in the US. Approximately 25,000 to 30,000 new wells were drilled each year in the US between 2011 and 2014, with over 8.6million people using drinking water sources located within one mile (1.6km) of a fracked well. The instances where fracking activities were shown to have impacted water quality represent a tiny fraction of these wells.

    The authors postulate that the lack of evidence for water quality impacts may indicate the rarity of such effects, or could be an underestimate due to a variety of factors:

    • insufficient pre and post-fracturing data;
    • the lack of long term systematic studies; and
    • the presence of other sources of contamination.


    The report also lists a number of vulnerabilities in the fracking water cycle, which the US EPA hopes will assist regulators and industry to protect public health and drinking water resources:
    • water withdrawals in areas with low water availability;
    • hydraulic fracturing conducted directly into formations containing drinking water resources;
    • inadequately cased or cemented wells resulting in below ground migration of gases and liquids;
    • inadequately treated wastewater discharged into drinking water resources; and
    • spills of hydraulic fluids and hydraulic fracturing wastewater, including flowback and produced water.


    The draft assessment was released alongside a series of nine peer-reviewed EPA scientific reports, which formed part of the drinking water study.

    Further work is required to evaluate potential fracking impacts on other water users, including agriculture, industry and the environment (i.e. seismicity, air quality or eco-system health). Additionally, a range of effects fell outside of the scope of this review, requiring further examination. This includes well pad development, the closure of fracked wells, reclaiming sites once fracking is complete and the acquisition of fracking chemicals.

    Want to read more? Check-out the following resources: