24 February 2014

New NSW Case on Duty to Report a Pollution Incident

A recent decision of the NSW land and Environment Court sheds new light on the duty to report a pollution incident under section 148 of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (NSW) (POEO Act). In Environment Protection Authority v Bulga Coal Management Pty Limited [2014] NSWLEC 5 Justice Pain held that the duty to report does not arise until the defendant is actually aware that the incident is of a type which should be reported. While section 148 has recently been amended to require ‘immediate’ notification, it is likely to be interpreted in the same way. In practice, this means that:

  • if a pollution incident occurs during the carrying on of an activity by a company, the company’s internal processes can be followed to assess whether or not the pollution incident caused or threatened to cause material harm to the environment, and
  • the duty to notify the pollution incident to the EPA will only be triggered once the company (by its employees) is in fact aware that the pollution incident caused or threatened to cause material harm to the environment.

Click here to read more.

18 February 2014

The National Access Regime - Productivity Commission Final Report released

On 11 February 2014, the Federal Government released the Productivity Commission’s (PC) Final Report into the National Access Regime (Regime).

In large part, the Final Report adopted the PC’s key recommendations set out in its Draft Report released in May 2013.

While the PC concluded that the current Regime should be retained, it did recommend that amendments be made to four of the five declaration criteria in order to reflect its view that the Regime should only apply in exceptional circumstances.

This Alert provides an overview of the Final Report.

14 February 2014

Abbott Government announces a Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption

On Monday 10 February 2014 a Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption was announced.

The terms of reference for the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption are expressed very broadly. The Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said the inquiry will be able to go wherever the evidence leads it.

Companies and employers who have had dealings with unions are potentially within the scope of the inquiry, and should familiarise themselves with the terms of the inquiry and how they might become involved.

This update provides an overview of the inquiry, including the powers of the Commissioner.

6 February 2014

Qld: GBRMPA approves dumping of dredge spoil from Abbot Point capital dredging program

On 31 January 2014, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Part Authority (GBRMPA) approved North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation’s (NQBP) application to dispose of dredge spoil within the Great Barrier Marine Park.

The Abbot Point capital dredging program (Project) which was approved by the Environmental Minister, Greg Hunt, on 11 October 2013 (see blog post of 13 December 2013), involves the removal of 3 million cubic meters of spoil in respect of Terminals 0, 2 and 3.

In reaching the decision to approve the proposed dumping, GBRMPA noted that:
  • allowing the Project to proceed as planned would help contain development to existing ports,
  •  the strict environmental conditions imposed on the Project by the federal government would help to protect the reef, and
  •  it would support the use of an alternative site if one is found to be equal to, or better, in terms of environmental or heritage outcomes.

The approved disposal site is located approximately 25 kilometres east-north-east of the Port of Abbot Point, while the investigation zone being assessed for alternative locations is located 20 to 30 kilometres from the area being dredged.

Nevertheless, all dredge spoil is required to be tested by accredited laboratories to ensure that there are no contaminants in the dredge spoil prior to the commencement of dumping. No contaminants have yet been identified.

NQBP has welcomed the approval and has committed to abiding by the strict environmental conditions.

For further information, please contact Jay Leary, Partner, Roger Allingham, Solicitor, Brisbane or your usual Herbert Smith Freehills contact.