The Environment Protection and Heritage Council (EPHC) invited submissions on the largest change in over 10 years on the Assessment of Contaminated Sites National Environment Protection Measure (ACS NEPM).  The changes are a doubling of the current ACS NEPM which is the most comprehensive and complex NEPM.

ASBG raised a number of issues which are summarised as: 

  • Consultation on the NEPM its Schedules and supporting documentation
  • Overview of the impact of the total changes on businesses including:
    *  Sampling and investigation implications
    *  Risk assessment
    *  Auditor implications
  • Aesthetics its reference and usage.

ASBG's main recommendations focused on improved education about the NEPM, the expected increased demand for site auditors and clarity issues in the application of asethetics in site assessment.

Download this file (ASBG sub ACS NEPM 2010a.pdf)ASBG Submission on the ACS NEPM161 kB

The NSW Government tabled in parliament the Protection of the Environment Operations Environmental Monitoring Bill 2010 on 24 September 2010.  This bill enables the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) to place a levy on Environmental Protection Licence holders for undertaking additional monitoring.

The bill permits the EPA or the Minister to initiate is own investigation for the need for a monitoring program to consider impact on human health by licensed sites.  Licence holders whom the EPA considered appropriate are then hit with a monitoring levy to pay for environmental monitoring programs including: 

  • The costs of investigating the need for a program,
  • The development, implementation, operation and administration of,
  • Any costs incurred by the EPA before the commencement of this bill
  • Payments by the EPA for services provided by a person undertaking environmental monitoring programs for  the EPA  

Money collected is then placed into the Environmental Monitoring Fund (EMF) for use by the EPA.  Any environmental monitoring will be required to have an independent assessment on its efficacy and its economics.

ASBG’s issues with the bill include: 

  • Inefficient – handing over the implementation and operation of such monitoring to the EPA rather than the current outcome based approach used in Environment Protection Licences
  • Redundant — all the monitoring and more can be legally managed under licence conditions
  • Undermines Licensed site’s rights of negotiation and appeal on such issues
  • Retrospective — s295Z(4)(a) states … including any costs incurred by the EPA before the commencement of this Part.  
Making this bill broadly retrospective as licence holders can be levied for any costs of environmental monitoring programs such as NEPM ambient air quality sampling and monitoring for over 10 years across NSW. 


Subject to a COAG requirement the Environment Protection and Heritage Council (EPHC) is undertaking a Review of Harmonisation of Environmental Regulation across Australia.  This is being run jointly by the NSW and Victorian environmental agencies, of which the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water invited ASBG to provide comment on the scope of this review.  The main issues ASBG put forward for inclusion in the scope of the review includes:

  • Environmental reporting; streamlining, duplication reduction and harmonisation.
  • Standardisation of:  measurement, monitoring, accounting, verification across the following areas:
    • Greenhouse emissions
    • Air emissions (other than greenhouse)
    • Water
    • Waste
    • Land
  • Harmonisation of waste issues including: measurement, data collation, waste management type and improving the design of waste levies.
  • Improvements to licenses, authorities and permits.
  • National recognition of specific processes and systems which are Nationally recognised as best practice to assist in controversial projects.
  • Pathways and timetables to address these issues.

ASBG looks forward to the next phase of this review and the possible processes that can be included to really improve the above issues for members, especially environmental reporting.


The Ambient Air Quality National Environment Protection Measure (AAQ NEPM) sets standards for air quality across Australia.  If these standards are not met then the local state government, through its environmental agency is required to introduce controls to attain the standard.  Changes to the AAQ NEPM are being considered that focus on how and when an environmental agency is to act rather than what are acceptable air quality limits.

Use of 'exceedences' above set limits is the main way in which the NEPM requires action.  Some air pollutants have a permitted number of exceedences before the NEPM standard can be considered to have not been met.

ASBG's submission focused on the following four issues:

  • Removal of the permitted number of exceedences of the standard which was not supported if the current exceedence approach is to be continued to be used
  • Permitting 'exceptional' and 'natural' exceedences to be excluded from consideration of meeting the NEPM requirements. This was strongly opposed as it meant that governments could continue to ignore that they can control air emissions from such events such as prescribed burns, bush fires and dust storms.
  • How exceedences should be reported and considered, which ASBG offered advice on improving the reasons and actions to deal with exceedences.
  • Are there alternative methods - ASBG discussed this issue in detail promoting a proportional approach be used. This would also involve multi-departmental and multi-jurisdictional cooperation to manage air quality in a proportional and cost effective manner.

ASBG has written to the Ombudsman in relation to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to release Sydney Water's top 50 water users and their consumption going back some 8 years.

In response ASBG pointed out the significant general improvements made in the efficiency of water in the Sydney region, which was collectively as a result of action by industry, grant programs such as Sydney Water's Every Drop Counts program and other government initiatives such as Water Action Savings Plans. 

Hence the issue is not the performance of industry in general, but the impact competitors and competing nations could do to Sydney's businesses.  The need for confidentiality of resource use data has many justifications including: 

  • Competitors assessing the production levels of a site for future planning and obtaining additional market share.
  • Competitors ascertaining product formulations, recipes, costs and other proprietary information.
  • Competitors identifying sensitive resources and entering into price wars during times of supply shortage.
  • Countries assessing, by the release of such data, that a local company has been provided with a form of government assistance, thereby launching international court challenges which can lead to trade barriers being established.


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