Australia: Clearing the air – NSW Clean Air paper proposes widespread regulatory reforms

Last Updated: 10 November 2016
Article by Nick Thomas

The NSW Government is proposing wide-ranging strategies to improve air quality, affecting manufacturing, energy generation, mining, construction, waste management and transport. Consider whether you would like to make a submission by 20 January 2017.

At the end of October 2016, the NSW Government released a draft consultation paper, Clean Air for NSW, which focuses on improving air quality across NSW between 2017 and 2027.

The Paper proposes significant regulatory changes across a wide range of industries, as well as changes to the way in which the Government assesses and responds to air pollution incidents.

The extensive reach of the Paper's proposals, and the possibility of important regulatory changes, mean that industry participants should review the Paper and consider making a submission.

Broad coverage

The Paper aims to address air quality issues across a broad spectrum of air pollutants, including particles (primarily PM10 and PM2.5), ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide and lead.

It is based on assessments of air quality across several key areas of NSW, including the Sydney metropolitan area, the Upper and Lower Hunter Valley, the Central Coast, the Illawarra and rural NSW.

Priority actions

The Paper outlines a series of actions covering many key industries in NSW. Some key actions are outlined below:

  • Mining: The Paper proposes to strengthen mining rehabilitation controls, including via changes to standard mining lease conditions, with a focus on final land-use. The proposal include a mandatory rehabilitation code of practice.
  • Energy generation: The Paper outlines a project to strengthen air emission controls for power stations, especially coal-fire stations, based on a review of international best practice controls.
  • Hunter rail: Strategies for minimising dust exposure in the Hunter Valley rail corridor are proposed in the Paper.
  • Diesel emissions for stationary sources and rail: The paper proposes some possible actions to reduce diesel emissions from the construction and infrastructure sectors, extractive industries and waste management facilities. We expect this to be high priority, given the comment in the Paper that about 96% of all non-road diesel emissions in the greater Sydney metropolitan area come from industrial on-road vehicles and equipment, locomotives and shipping combined.
  • Petrol stations: The Paper proposes further consideration of the use of vapour recovery equipment NSW, for sources such as vapour escaping from petrol stations.
  • Roads: One of the Paper's proposals is to pursue air quality by encouraging cleaner vehicles (eg. electric and hybrid vehicles), reducing road congestions (NorthConnex and Westconnex are cited as example projects here) and increased use of public transport and "active transport (eg. cycling and walking).

What's next?

The Paper is said to reflect work from several collaborating Government agencies, including the EPA (as chair), OEH, NSW Health, Transport for NSW, the Department of Planning and Environment, the Department of Industry, and the Department of Premier and Cabinet. The Paper represents the first public step in a 10 year overall strategy.

A Clean Air Summit will take place in Sydney in early 2017, about six months from the date of release of the Paper. The Paper will inform discussions at the Summit. The Paper requests comment and will be finalised in the second half of 2017.

Industry participants should consider making a submission before 20 January 2017 via email to air.policy@epa.nsw.gov.au.

Clayton Utz communications are intended to provide commentary and general information. They should not be relied upon as legal advice. Formal legal advice should be sought in particular transactions or on matters of interest arising from this bulletin. Persons listed may not be admitted in all states and territories.

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