7 February 2012 – The Orica chemical spills at Newcastle and Port Botany in NSW have led to tough new laws that require immediate notification of environmental pollution and stiff penalties for corporations and individuals.

The new laws, which came into effect on 6 February, include doubling of the maximum penalties to $2 million for corporations and $500,000 for individuals who fail to report a pollution incident. Daily penalties have also doubled to $240,000 for corporations and $120,000 for individuals.

The new laws,  section 148 of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997, replace former rules that required notification “as soon as practicable.”

This ruling,  affects organisations holding an environment protection licence under the Act and anyone causing a pollution incident where material harm to the environment is caused or threatened.

According to a report by global consultancy WSP Environment & Energy https://www.wspenvironmental.com/newsroom/news-2/view/new-pollution-reporting-introduced-in-nsw-australia-330 the changes have been made as a result of recent incidents at the Orica manufacturing site in NSW.

Licence holders have from 29 February to start preparing pollution incident response plans for each of the licensed activities in Part 5.7A of the Act.  They have to be in place by 1 September.

Any data collected as a result of a licence condition from 31 March 2012 also has to be published within 14 days of collection.

By Lyn Drummond