A Upper Hunter based quarry company is facing $45,000 in fines for breaching its Environment Protection Licence.
The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) issued Stoneco Pty Limited with three $15,000 fines for alleged non-compliances with their Environment Protection Licence following a routine and unannounced inspection of the Braeside Quarry near Scone in February this year.
PA Officers identified a range of issues resulting from poor management practices including a lack of dust emission controls, inappropriate storage of waste and poor storage and handling of diesel, oil and waste oils.
EPA Director Hunter Karen Marler said Stoneco Pty Limited is responsible for complying with the conditions of their licence.
“Compliance with the conditions of their licence is not optional. There was potential for harm to human health and the environment, including for workers onsite, particularly from the uncontrolled dust emissions,” Ms Marler said.
“Operating in a relatively remote location does not mean that the rules do not apply. Those rules are in place to ensure relevant risks are controlled and that activities are carried out in an appropriate manner.”
Stoneco Pty Limited will be required to remove and lawfully dispose of relevant wastes stored onsite as well as carrying out other necessary rectification works.
Penalty notices are one of a number of tools the EPA can use to achieve environmental compliance, including formal warnings, official cautions, licence conditions, notices and directions and prosecutions. For more information about the EPA’s regulatory tools, see the EPA Compliance Policy at www.epa.nsw.gov.au/legislation/prosguid.htm
Source: NSW EPA
A gas company has been fined a record $4.5 million for causing serious environmental harm at its underground coal gasification plant on Queensland's western Darling Downs.
Linc Energy was found guilty by a District Court jury in Brisbane last month after a 10-week trial.
The company was charged with five counts of wilfully and unlawfully causing serious environmental harm between 2007 and 2013 at Hopeland near Chinchilla.
Linc Energy mismanaged the underground burning of coal seams, which caused rock to fracture and allowed the escape of toxic gases which contaminated the air, soil and water on site.
The court heard the highest fine imposed upon a company so far in Queensland for similar offending was $500,000.
Linc Energy did not defend itself during the trial because it is now in liquidation.
Five executive directors have been charged with failing to ensure compliance of the company and are due to face a committal hearing in the Brisbane Magistrates Court in July.
Prosecutor Ralph Devlin told the court the company knew it was causing damage but pressed ahead with operations, and described its offending as "serious".
"The defendant acted in devious and cavalier way … its motivation was commercial gain," he said.
"It pursued commercial interests over environmental safeguards."
The court heard there would be monitoring and remediation of the site for decades to come, and it will take potentially between 10 to 20 years for groundwater to recover.
Judge Michael Shanahan said despite the fact the company was now in liquidation, there was good reason to impose financial penalties.
"I am unsure of any of its assets or liabilities and capacity to pay fines," he said.
"Linc was well aware of the damage being done … and attempted to hide it from the regulator."
Judge Shanahan said the offending was carried out over seven years and was "persistent and in clear breach" of its obligations.
Queensland Resources Council chief executive Ian Macfarlane said the project had been a "blight" to the environmental and resources council, saying "99.99 per cent of the industry comply by the rules".
"This is one company that stepped outside those rules and I think it's important that the full force of the law was laid against them," Mr Macfarlane said.
Senior Queensland Government Minister Kate Jones said the fine was a clear warning for all companies impacting the environment.
"I'm very pleased with this result," Ms Jones said.
"Clearly Linc Energy has done the wrong thing and the fine sends a very strong message to other companies out there to do the right thing."
Lock the Gate spokesperson Vicki Perrin said she was deeply concerned about Linc Energy's ability to pay the $4.5 million penalty, given they were currently in liquidation.
"The Queensland Government needs to stop approving every mining and gas project that comes before it, and set higher standards in the early stages before we end up with another mess like this," she said.
Source: ABC News
Photo: Nathan Morris, ABC
In June 2018, The Litter and Illegal Dumping Compliance Operation (LIDCO) team of the Department of Environment and Science in Queensland, shared their work administering litter, illegal dumping and unsolicited advertising material provisions under the Waste Reduction and Recycling Act 2011. Their work includes investigating matters and delivering co-ordinated, consistent, timely and transparent enforcement action as part of a state-wide network. The team also assists local government and state agencies to manage and prevent illegal dumping incidents through continual capacity building and behaviour change.
The presentation included a case study investigating an illegal dumping incident thought initially to be stagnant water, but that turned out to be an interesting investigative journey.
The Litter and Illegal Dumping Compliance Operation (LIDCO) team (within Conservation and Sustainability Services, in the Department of Environment and Science) undertake compliance activities with respect to litter and illegal dumping in Queensland and enforce offences under the Waste Reduction and Recycling Act 2011. The team works closely with local governments, departmental regional officers and the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service to better manage litter and illegal dumping across the state.
Years of careful investigation, surveillance and thorough preparation by the EPA’s waste and legal teams came to a close after one of the NSW's most notorious illegal dumpers, Mr Dib Hanna was sentenced to three years in prison by the Land and Environment Court.
The court found Mr Hanna guilty on five charges brought against him by the EPA. The charges related to the illegal transport and dumping of asbestos waste on private properties in western Sydney in 2015 and 2016.
Mr Hanna was also ordered to clean up the waste, publish details of his conviction in several newspapers and to pay the EPA’s legal costs.
Justice Brian Preston said Hanna had shown limited remorse for his actions and the likelihood of reoffending was high.
"You caused harm to the environment and harm to human health," he said.
"Your conduct was deliberate and intentional ... you did this to save money by avoiding paying tipping fees for a licenced waste facility."
He will be eligible for parole in July 2020.
We wanted to remind you about the upcoming INECE Discussion Series, “Connecting Environmental and Social Impact Assessment with Compliance and Enforcement.” This four-part webinar-based series will begin on April 17, and it will bring together experts and practitioners to discuss best practices for aligning environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) with compliance and enforcement.
Each session will feature a 30 minute introductory presentation by one or two experts in the field, followed by 45 minutes of moderated discussion among participants. Confirmed speakers include representatives from the World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, Brazil IBAMA, and the Asian Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Network.
A Discussion Series Summary with further details and registration information can be found on the INECE website here.
Recognizing that the time difference may make it difficult to join the discussion from Australia, INECE will record the webinars and post them on the INECE website at a later date.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Mar 10, 2018 as "AELERT and alarmed" and is published here with their permission.
By Tanya M. Howard, research fellow at the Australian Centre for Agriculture and Law, University of New England, NSW.
Environmental regulation is a tough field. Incidents can erupt into public awareness, such as the Hazelwood mine fire in Victoria, or the chemical contamination at Williamtown RAAF Base in New South Wales. In times of crisis, the need for strong environmental regulations and a professional, well-resourced workforce to enforce them is clear. But the majority of environmental crime doesn’t make it to the front page of the newspaper. Polluted rivers, contaminated aquifers, smuggled wildlife and choking air pollution – these are the “repeat offenders” of routine environmental crime, and they are harder to address in regional or remote locations where public impacts are limited.
It is in this mind that I am at the annual environmental regulators conference in Sydney. I am here to take the pulse on the frontline experience of environmental regulation in Australia. As an industry outsider, I want to understand more about the lived experience of designing and implementing environmental regulation. I am also curious to gauge the impact of the 2014 murder of NSW compliance officer Glen Turner on the activities of environmental regulators on the ground. This tragic event led to a criminal trial and a murder conviction for Ian Turnbull, a well-known Moree landholder who had in the preceding years been repeatedly investigated for illegal land clearing. In 2017, the NSW Coroner ordered an inquest into Glen Turner’s death, the date of which is yet to be announced. The inquest is intended to help better understand the risks faced by officers such as Turner.
Environmental protection authorities and a wide variety of environment departments exist in all jurisdictions and prosecute breaches of state and territory legislation, with their federal counterparts responsible for enforcing federal law.
To continue reading this article please use this link to The Saturday Paper. - Read more.
In February 2018, Eugene Immisch of the Department of Environment and Science in Queensland explained how evaluating the performance of erosion and sediment controls can be technically challenging.
Determining compliance can be a tricky business and the range of potential control measures to manage risks is large and riddled with technical complexity. Eugene explored the use of a consistent, transparent and repeatable investigation methodology as a tool to assist regulators when assessing the effectiveness of erosion and sediment controls and establishing compliance.
Available only to AELERT Members
Eugene Immisch is a Compliance Delivery Manager, with the Environmental Services and Regulation Division of the Department of Environment and Science.
Eugene holds qualifications in both Environmental Science and Environmental Engineering and has 18 years of experience in the environmental sector, 10 in the department. He has championed compliance programs focused on improving erosion and sediment control practices and worked to improve the regulator's understanding.
The AELERT Achievement Awards recognise AELERT’s signature values and beliefs: collaboration, leadership, excellence, innovation and improvement in environmental regulation.
This year's Achievement Awards were announced at the 2018 AELERT Conference Dinner in Sydney. For those of you who weren’t there, please join us in congratulating our winners.
The award for Achievement in Building the Regulatory Craft is to celebrate a person or group who has significantly contributed to the regulatory craft. Their contribution should span jurisdictional boundaries.
This year's award was presented to Light Industry Program Partners, WA Department of Water and Environmental Regulation.
The program was created to protect Perth’s Swan and Canning river systems by preventing contaminants such as oil, coolant, paint and pesticides from entering groundwater and stormwater drainage systems from light industrial premises, and in doing so demonstrated achievement in each of the four MRIT themes, and many of the attributes, at a high level.
The project collaborated across local and state governments, involving seven councils and two state agencies.
The program’s focus on capability enhancement in a co-regulatory situation was impressive and yielded an extremely good level of compliance improvement.
One outcome of the program was capacity building in the seven local governments, an important result for developing the regulatory craft. There were impressive reductions in non-compliance rates over the course of the program.
You can read the nomination here.
The award for Achievement in the Regulatory Profession, is to honour a person or group who has excelled or significantly improved in their personal regulatory performance within their home agency.
This year's recipient was Ken Raine, Senior Manager of the Western Australian Pollution Response team of the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER).
A Pollution Response Unit was initiated by Ken after the Bellevue chemical fire incident in 2001 which caused the WA Government to finance a Pollution/Hazmat response team.
Ken has led the unit for over 14 years and has not lost his commitment, energy or vision to improve pollution response, not only as a job for DWER and the Minister but for the people of WA, to ensure their wellbeing and safety.
The judges felt that Ken Raine displayed not only a level of technical excellence in pollution response, he has displayed leadership qualities by driving knowledge-sharing and capability building across the network.
His nomination described Ken's long-standing commitment to building pollution response capabilities, collaboration, interoperability and response excellence.
Read Ken's nomination here.
Photo: Mark Gifford, AELERT Chair and Germaine Larcombe, WA Jurisdictional Representative accepting award on behalf of winners.
Genevieve Jacobs was the Master of Ceremonies at the recent 2018 AELERT Conference in Sydney. With over 30 years of experience as a radio and print journalist, 10 of which were on 666ABC Radio in Canberra, she offered a keen and thoughtful review of the three day conference program. These are her closing remarks.
"Its been a brilliant few days packed with big ideas. That began with Mark Gifford, who urged us to look beyond standard approaches to regulation and ask ourselves the key conference question - “Is being right enough”?
Tim Flannery was a galvanising presence as the opening keynote speaker as he reflected on whether environmental activism was in some sense becoming harder than it used to be amidst the social malaise and declining trust in institutions. He asked us to consider whether this is, in fact, a post truth society - a sobering question for scientists everywhere.
However Flannery believes that ordinary people do have plenty of brains and common sense if we open the discussion with them. He pointed out that the battle over the reality of anthropogenic climate change is all but won, as is that for the value of renewable energy. So how then do we pull the levers at all levels of the community from grassroots to legislation to ensure that the momentum for dealing with climate change continues? Emissions certainly need to be cut hard and fast, but Tim said that we also need to energise the new ideas and new industries that will meet the climate challenge proactively.
That created a starting post for a conference that focussed both on sharing practical ideas and experiences, but also understanding how to effect behavioural change - and you cannot have one without the other. The breakout sessions examined these two ideas through three themes - retrofitting our toolbox, technology and headspace. It seemed to me from these sessions that you are on the cusp of huge challenges and change in your sector. Technology has a great deal to offer you - people are extremely enthusiastic about drones! - but there were also a lot of in depth conversations about the value of intelligence, how to maximise its usefulness to inform rather than only to enforce, and how to marry that with cognitive behavioural understanding.
So Genene O’Neill, for example, asked how to manage a situation where multiple prosecutions have had little effect and some local governments refuse to innovate. Could behavioural insights be a valuable tool for fixing that? Stefan Kauffman and Nicholas Faulkner were considering similar issues, making the point that if you invest time in really understanding the metrics and drivers of a problem, including making sure you’ve assembled the right team to deal with it and ordering your own priorities then you’ll deliver a specifically tailored response where both the communication and engagement reflect what you already thoroughly understand.
Although sometimes when things go badly wrong as they did at Hazelwood in the La Trobe valley, that communication becomes a very tough task when the community feels they’ve lost any control. The same issues pertained in Port Augusta, where the community had little resilience left before they were faced with a major environmental issue. Community unrest and anger - outrage - then gathers around the regulators who carry the blame for a reaction that is about both the issue at hand but also the deep existing problems.
If you don’t understand and can’t communicate with the community, you’re in real trouble. Citizen science can be a solution. At Hazelwood, a co-design project brought the community back through a deliberative process that reaped huge relationship changing results and has been very profitable for working on ongoing issues.
How to carry out that engagement was a major theme. Canadian PR guru Jim Hoggan’s keynote told us emphatically that communications and engagement are central, not an add-on. Sometimes, its every bit as hard as the science or the legislation for several reasons: we are inclined to act tribally, to adjust evidence to suit our own beliefs, and to judge people as good or bad based on whether they agree with us or not. If you add the powerful influence of public relations to these deeply embedded human behaviour patterns, this creates polarisation, disrespect for others and a polluted public space where people increasingly believe that nobody is wholly right and that everyone is acting in their own interests.
In that situation, the facts alone, simply being right, won’t change people’s minds because if they’re not in control they will feel fearful and risk averse no matter what the facts are telling them.
So, what to do? In the words of Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, how do we “speak the truth but not to punish?”
Jim Hoggan suggested in his workshop that shaping a narrative, personalising it, creating a story that was inclusive and even emotional could be a powerful mechanism for bringing about change in a way that the facts alone could not. People who are emotionally engaged are open to change and new ideas because their trust has been gained.
We saw the power of that storytelling from Natalie Isaacs, formerly a cosmetics manufacturer and now a climate change activist and the founder of One Million Women. She had a personal transformation and then turned that into a catalyst for change in her movement , emphasising that she doesn’t talk about guilt, but empowerment. Natalie says “once you get the message in your heart, it becomes a transformative proposition front and centre. Action on climate change becomes central to your life, not an adjunct to the way we live”.
I understand that this is not easy, and I admire the way in which you are setting yourselves up to face these big challenges for yourselves, your staff and the workplace cultures that you have to bring along with you. But if you can step up to it, then you are very much front line troops in a major battle that affects us all. And on that, I’ve been struck several times throughout the conference that many of you do face a dearth of scientific knowledge in the general community, so the communications become ever more significant
Ben Eggleton looked at some of the exceptionally sophisticated technological tools at your disposal for a range of functions - detecting minute particle ranges for example, but also to make that technology accessible, available and inexpensive. Pragati Shahi and Jack Kinross (speaking from Nepal) talked to us about both the fascinating detail of wildlife conservation around big cat species, in particular the leopard, but also gave us an insight into how social determinants affect conservation across class demographics.
I have so much enjoyed being with you all, I’ve learned a great deal and its made me think that being an environmental regulator might be pretty cool. Thanks you for the opportunity."
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