EPA works approval licences

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Certain industrial projects require an EPA Works Approval

Under the Environment Protection Act 1970 (‘the Act’) certain industrial projects require an approval from the Environment Protection Authority (EPA).

Works approvals allow the EPA and industry to resolve potential pollution problems and finalise waste discharge, storage and handling requirements before commencement of a project or operations.

A works approval is typically an approval to construct a facility. A works approval is not a permit to operate a facility and discharge waste to the environment.  To operate an industrial facility and discharge waste to the environment may require a waste discharge licence issued by EPA.

Which developments require a works approval?

The Environment Protection (Scheduled Premises) Regulations 2007 (the Regulation) lists industry and activity types that are scheduled and therefore may require an EPA Works Approval.

If an activity falls within one of the “scheduled premises” listed in the Regulations, the operator must seek works approval prior to construction of new premises or modification of existing premises. However, not all works on scheduled premises involving discharges to the environment require works approval. General maintenance is specifically exempted in the Act.

EPA can also exempt minor works that do not increase waste discharges to the environment. The Regulations also set out the conditions under which premises may be exempt from works approvals and licensing.

What types of requirements can be included in works approvals?

Works approvals will not only address the quantity and quality of potential waste discharges, they may also specify the type and operation of pollution control and monitoring equipment, pollution abatement measures and investigations funded by the applicant to assess the impact of proposed or existing waste discharges. All conditions subsequently inserted in the licence must be consistent with the relevant works approval.

How do I obtain a works approval?

An application for a works approval must be submitted to EPA with the appropriate fee. The amount of the fee depends on the proposed value of the works. The application must contain technical information detailing the environmental impacts of the project and demonstrating compliance with the relevant State Environmental Protection Policies (SEPPs for Air, Water, Noise, Land and Groundwater, etc).

Applicants may need to engage a consultant to assist with application if they are not familiar with SEPPs. There is an option to submit an application assessed by an Environmental Auditor which attracts a lower fee.

To ensure the timely processing of a works approval application, The Facilitation Group can arrange a meeting between the company and the EPA, and facilitate early discussions regarding EPA’s requirements for a works approval application prior to its submission.

How long does it take to obtain a works approval?

Once EPA accepts the application the statutory time for EPA to process the application is 4 months. The application must be advertised and referred to other Agencies. High quality applications may be processed in a shorter time.  If objections are raised then a conference to hear the objectors may be required and the time to process the application may be longer than 4 months.

What is a licence?

Licences are required for all “scheduled premises” unless exempted in the Regulations. Licences cover the actual operation of the site and set operating, water discharge limits, and waste acceptance conditions as appropriate. The Act specifies penalties for breach of licence conditions, or for operating a site without a licence.

Do I need both a licence and a works approval?

Where a works approval has been obtained, and works are completed in accordance with the works approval, a licence for the operation of the site will be required, unless it is exempt under the Regulations. Once the occupier believes that the works have been completed in accordance with that works approval, an application for licence (or for licence amendment if there is an existing licence for the premises) may be made to EPA. EPA will inspect the works, and if they are found to comply with the conditions of the works approval, will issue the new or amended licence.

Are works approvals and licences subject to public participation and third party appeals?

The public are invited to make comments on works approvals and some types of licence applications. EPA is required to advertise in a newspaper that is distributed statewide when it has received an application for a works approval.

Any interested person may obtain a copy or summary of a works approval application and make comments to EPA regarding the application. Comments must be submitted to EPA within 21 days of the application being first advertised. The Act requires EPA to take such comments into account during its assessment of the application. Late comments may also be considered at EPA’s discretion.

Where written objections to works proposals are received, EPA may, and generally will, arrange for a conference to be held. The conference will be convened by EPA and all interested people will be invited to attend. EPA is required to take account of the discussions or resolutions of a conference and the recommendations of the convenor.

Who can appeal a decision to grant a works approval?

Any person who is aggrieved by the grant of a works approval may lodge an appeal to Victorian, Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT). The appeal must be lodged within 21 days of EPA making its decision to grant the approval, and the grounds upon which the appeal is lodged must be stated. Appeals may be made on either of two grounds:

  • that a discharge in accordance with the approval will ‘unreasonably or adversely’ affect the interests of the appellant; or
  • that the discharge will be inconsistent with State Environment Protection Policy (SEPP), or, if there is no applicable SEPP, the discharge would cause pollution.

Can an applicant appeal against a decision by EPA not to grant a works approval?

A second party (the party applying for a works approval or licence/ works approval or licence holder) may appeal to VCAT on any of several grounds, including:

  • the failure of EPA to determine an application for a works approval, to issue a licence, or to amend a licence within the period allowed under the Act;
  • the refusal to grant or transfer a works approval, or to issue or transfer a licence
  • the refusal to issue or renew a permit to transport waste;
  • any terms or conditions attached to the works approval, licence or permit to transport waste;
  • the revocation or suspension of their licence;
  • any requirement contained in a pollution abatement notice; and
  • a requirement to fund a course of study.

An appeal must be lodged within 21 days of EPA’s decision, or in the case of EPA’s failure to make a decision, within 21 days of the expiration of the period allowed for the decision to be made.

Source: Environment Protection Authority