VIC EPA seeks new chairperson

The Victorian EPA is seeking a new chairperson after Cheryl Batagol announced she would not pursue a term extension in June.

Environment Minister Lily D’ambrosio is now seeking expression of interest for chairperson and EPA Governing Board appointments.

These appointments are expected to commence from 1 July 2020 for a term not exceeding five years, as determined by the minister.

Ms Batagol said it had been a pleasure and privilege to serve as EPA chairperson for more than 10 years.

“I have been privileged to lead the board through a significant period of transition, and I have every confidence EPA is well positioned to deliver on the Victorian Government’s response to the EPA Inquiry and continue on a path of continuous improvement,” Ms Batagol said.

“EPA will be entering an exciting new era with the commencement of Victoria’s new, world-leading environment laws on 1 July, and it is fitting a new chairperson oversee the next chapter.”

Ms Batagol thanked EPA Cheif Executive Cathy Wilkinson and the executive team for their commitment to service.

“Being the inaugural chairperson of EPA’s statutory Governing Board, which was established on 1 July 2018, has been an absolute honour – and I would like to thank my esteemed colleagues for their support and commitment to EPA and its once-in-a-generation reforms,” Ms Batagol said.

“Prior to this, I was a standalone chair and then chairperson of EPA’s Interim Advisory Board. Having a full statutory board has brought stronger governance and greater diversity, which we are now seeing the benefits of.”

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EPA and DELWP review EP Act submissions

The Victorian EPA and Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) are encouraged by the level of interest in Victoria’s new environmental regulations and standards, after receiving more than 300 public submissions.

EPA Chief Executive Cathy Wilkinson said feedback has been positive, with suggestions from industry, business and community members on how to improve the regulations.

“It’s fantastic that so many individuals and organisations have taken the time to have their say,” Dr Wilkinson said.

“Their comments will ensure the regulations and standards are sound and robust.”

Taking effect 1 July 2020, the Environment Protection Amendment Act 2018 represents the most significant change to Victoria’s environmental regulatory regime since the introduction of the Environment Protection Act 1970.

Significant changes include a general environmental duty, which requires all Victorian undertaking an activity with potential environmental and human health risk to identify and implement reasonably practical means to eliminate or minimise risk.

Additional changes include higher penalties for illegal dumping, a public register, improved information sharing with other agencies and third party community rights.

DELWP Executive Director Mark Rodrigues said consultation engaged EPA Industry Reference and Community Groups and local and state government stakeholders.

“We’ve had a great response to the consultation process and this feedback will be invaluable in helping us shape this important legislation to better protect our environment,” Mr Rodrigues said.

According to an EPA statement, the EPA and DELWP are now reviewing all submissions, and have committed to responding through the Victorian Government’s Response to Public Comment Report in 2020.

“Feedback that goes beyond the scope of public comment on proposed regulations and standards will be considered in light of EPA’s broader transformation program,” the statement reads.

The Response to Public Comment Report will be released on the Engage Victoria website in early 2020.

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Applications open for Victorian EPA OPLE project

The Victorian Officer for the Protection of the Local Environment (OPLE) program has received a further $3.4 million in state government funding.

The expanded funding will enable the recruitment of 4-6 extra OPLEs for 4-10 partner councils.

The program gives councils on-the-spot access to EPA capabilities and aims to build upon the EPA’s relationships with local governments to enable faster identification and resolution of smaller-scale waste issues.

EPA has opened an expression of interest period and is encouraging all local councils to apply.

OPLEs are authorised officers who have powers under the Environment Protection Act to issue pollution abatement and clean up notices.

EPA CEO Dr Cathy Wilkinson said in their first 14 months, OPLEs completed 857 inspections of 605 sites and served 81 notices.

“Local community issues, such as water pollution and management, noise and illegal dumping and odour were common areas the officers dealt with,” Dr Wilkinson said.

“The new OPLEs and council areas will also help EPA combat illegal industrial and chemical waste stockpiling.”

Dr Wilkinson said current participating councils had reported improved response times to pollution reports and increased collaboration, information sharing and expertise since the OPLEs began work in February 2018.

“OPLEs respond to issues relating to noise, dust and odour and waste management issues arising from small to medium size businesses,” Dr Wilkinson said.

“OPLEs also provide local industry, business and community members with the knowledge and skills they need to help prevent, identify and resolve environmental issues.”

All Victorian councils are eligible to apply and must submit applications by 10 July.

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VWMA partners with EPA for waste and recycling training

The Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA) is partnering with Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) to develop a training package that seeks to equip operators with information and tools to better manage fire risks.

The training course will be delivered by VWMA as part of its industry training program to be modelled on the Management and storage of combustible recyclable and waste materials – guideline.

The training will equip operators with information and tools to understand the fire hazards associated with their activities and take steps to reduce risk. It will include the management and storage of combustible recyclable and waste materials in a manner that protects the environment and human health from the risk of fire.

EPA sees the partnership with VWMA as an important way of ensuring ongoing implementation of the management and storage of combustible recyclable and waste materials – guideline and will be seeking to evaluate the effectiveness of this approach.

VWMA Executive Officer Mark Smith highlighted that last year’s VWMA State Conference saw a commitment from the association to work with insurance sector and legal firms, consultants and government to tackle rising insurance costs and the risk of fire at sites.

“This announcement today lays the foundation for us to move forward. Members can expect further information about additional services we will be rolling out at our state conference on 30/31 July,” Mr Smith said.

“Figures from DELWP reveal more than 100 recycling facility fires have happened in the last 10 years, with the largest costing Victorian Government over $110 million. We want to reduce instances of fires and work with insurance companies to show that the sector is making inroads to lift standards.

“Participating in this training will demonstrate a waste and resource recovery operator’s willingness and commitment to identify and manage risk.  It will also support business lower their risk profiles, which will increasingly be expected if the sector wants to remain insurable.”

EPA CEO Cathy Wilkinson said that through extensive engagement with industry and local government, EPA has developed practical guidelines on how to comply with the Victorian Government’s Waste Management Policy (Combustible Recyclable and Waste Materials).

The VWMA and EPA recognise the need to promote better practice through a shared commitment to drive industry leadership in the preventative management of combustible recyclable and waste materials. The VWMA aims to support its members and the waste and resource recovery sector to reduce the frequency, scale and severity of fires at waste and resource recovery facilities.

In a statement, the VWMA noted that the Victorian waste and resource recovery sector provides over 23,000 direct and indirect jobs across over 1200 businesses and is an essential community service supporting all the waste management needs of every Victorian business and household.

Currently, the sector is responding to changes in the regulatory environment around fire risk and management following new government policy introduced after several major fires.

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VWMA hosts breakfast briefing

Next week the Victorian Waste Management Association (VWMA) will host its first industry breakfast briefing for the year with partners Environment Protection Authority (EPA) Victoria and WorkSafe Victoria.

EPA Chief Executive Officer Dr Cathy Wilkinson and Worksafe Director of the High Risk Dangerous Goods Taskforce Michael Eather will speak at the event, providing attendees the opportunity to hear and discuss important issues affecting the sector.

Ms Wilkinson will discuss EPA priorities for 2019 outlining key aspects of the EP Act and business engagement opportunities.

Mr Eather will provide insights into the high risk dangerous goods taskforce and outline the company’s project to clean up eight work sites in Epping and Campbellfield.

The breakfast will take place at the RACV Club on Tuesday 19 March between 7:30 and 9 am.

Click here for more information

New EPA Victoria CEO appointed

A new Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) Chief Executive Officer has been appointed, replacing Nial Finegan who had been in the role for four years.

Dr Cathy Wilkinson has been selected for the role, having worked with the EPA since 2015 and previously held senior leadership roles in the planning, water and environment portfolios for various state government departments.

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She has been a member of Ministerial Advisory Committees and has provided environmental leadership for international organisations such as the Stockholm Resilience Centre.

EPA Chairperson Cheryl Batagol said Dr Wilkinson’s experience will be invaluable as the EPA continues its transformation process.

“This is an exciting time for the EPA as we consolidate our leadership team and continue working to become Victoria’s modern, agile environmental regulator,” Ms Batagol said.

“We are committed to continuing our successful engagement with our stakeholders and undertaking extensive consultation throughout this period of change and transformation.”

EPA Victoria’s focus is implementing the new powers and tools granted to them by the state government to prevent risks to the environment and human health.

Changes from the Environment Protection Act 2017 and Environment Protection Amendment Bill 2018 will require an overhaul of the EPA’s systems, services and processes by 2020.

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