NSW EPA marks one year as lead regulator

December 2nd, 2016

As celebrations go, the New South Wales’ Environmental Protection Agency was fairly subdued in their acknowledgment of their first anniversary as the state’s leading gas regulator.

In a media release quietly sent out on the 3rd November, EPA Chief Environmental Regulator Mark Gifford said the EPA was building on its strong enforcement history, and continuing to regulate gas conditions, including those issued by other NSW Government agencies, conduct inspections and investigate complaints, with new staff now based close to gas operations.

“We’re committed to ensuring the regulations are applied consistently, transparently and efficiently and, in the past 12 months, we have conducted close to 200 inspections of gas projects,” said Mr Gifford.

According to the release, since being appointed last year, the EPA has taken some key actions including:

  • 197 inspections conducted:
    • 107 inspections checked compliance with environmental and operational conditions issued by the EPA, the Division of Resources and Energy, Department of Planning and Environment and Department of Primary Industries – Water.
    • 90 inspections focussed on compliance with rehabilitation standards before the return of security bonds
  • 16 reports from individuals and communities about potential pollution incidents from gas operations were investigated – of these reports, most were dismissed as the EPA found that there were no breaches of environmental operations (such as here and here), and only one or two required minimal further action. As we have noted previously, some of these investigations were made by activists that simply wasted the EPA’s time.
  • The EPA is now the first port of call for information about gas regulation in NSW
  • Recruitment of staff with specialist skills including hydro-geologists, petroleum engineers and a geologist
  • Dedicated gas regulation staff now based in a new Narrabri office
  • Community liaison officers now based in Dubbo, Narrabri and the Illawarra
  • New technology means gas inspectors can access all NSW Government conditions that apply to a gas operator from their tablet or smartphone
  • Commissioned new 3D immersion training theatre for regulation staff

While the EPA has been relatively modest about the changes and developments it has been making in NSW, we believe they are noteworthy.

In its role as a regulator, the EPA has clearly demonstrated its willingness to adapt to community interest – placing support staff in communities where gas fields are present is a key driver towards more open and transparent interactions with the companies and the community.

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