EPA’s inequitable risk-based licensing framework

November 13, 2013

The NSW Minerals Council has made a submission to the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) on its proposed amendments to the regulation and fee structure of environment protection licences.   
The EPA wants to introduce a new ‘risk-based’ framework to guide the level of regulation required for each licence holder and to calculate licence fees. The framework is based on a risk-assessment tool that the EPA has developed to estimate site-specific environmental risks posed by a licensed facility.
The NSW Minerals Council acknowledges that miners should share the cost of implementing mining regulation and the industry already pays among the highest environment protection licensing fees in the state. However, any changes to fees should reflect the actual cost of regulatory action, rather than the arbitrary weighting currently proposed.
For example, a mine with an annual operating licence of $50,000 that has been fined $1,500 for an infringement would be subject to a fee increase of $20,000 the following year under the proposed changes. Such an increase would be completely out of proportion with the infraction and the EPA’s administrative burden. 
The framework’s fee multipliers also unfairly target larger-scale operations. A smaller operator with a smaller annual licence fee, of $10,000, fined for the same infringement, would only pay an additional $4,000 the following year.

The NSW Minerals Council has suggested a number of improvements to the risk assessment tool to ensure that it is fair, correctly targeted, charges fees in proportion to the level of risk and incentivises better performance.
The changes needed to ensure a fairer approach to determining environmental licensing fees is outlined in the NSW Minerals Council’s submission lodged with the EPA and available here.

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