Analysis of the EPA 1997

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Date added: 17-06-26

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Introduction The EPA established in 1997 was set up with the key objectives of protecting and sustaining the environment for years to come, however it seems that this legislation has been forgotten about and pushed away. The reason why it has been forgotten and neglected is unclear, some say it’s for the benefit of Australia, a better economic Australia, but no matter what way you interpret these opinions it will remain a gross miss treatment of Australian legislation. The objectives placed by the EPA are there for the safety and well being of the Environment apart from the objectives not working, the simple fact is that they are failing to do the job which they were designed to do. Economical Advancement The Common law has not provided much protection for the environment in the past and only recently governments have started taking environmental issues seriously, this neglect was brought about due to economic and industrial progress. So in our current society people can natural assume that since we are so, advance that environmental laws setup to protect and preserve as in the objectives put forward by the EPA of 1997, yet we still see the environmental laws being pushed aside for economical growth. In a recent case, The Wandoan Coal Mine Case involved an objection to a major new open-cut coal mine proposed to operate for 30 years in Queensland () this is a clear example of the law of which is put in place to protect the environment is pushed aside for economical benefit. The Paradise Dam Case involved an application in the Federal Court for a declaration and an injunction to restrain an alleged breach of a condition of approval under the EPBC Act for a large dam in Queensland () another clear violation of the legislation put in place to protect and preserve instead its neglected for economical gain. This is just a small outline of some violations which have been made against the EPA, which highlights the fact that the objectives put forward by the EPA are not working. Neglect for the Laws The legislation is pretty black and white when referring to what is a violation and what a violation isn’t, however the government seems to find ways to bend and self interpret the laws to suit them. This is neglect for the law, that body our society as a whole and every member no matter who they are must follow them. “Clive Palmer's nickel refinery pumped toxic waste into Great Barrier Reef park” () one of many cases, the amazing thing about this one was they allowed him to dump seven times before interfering and stopping under the EPA laws. This shows how a man with money and power is able to bend the system in his favour he only received a fine for 1.5 million but caused damages which will take years to mend, if the EPA objectives and guidelines where being followed properly this issues would have never accrued. “The 2010 Great Barrier Reef oil spill occurred on 3 April 2010, when the Chinese bulk coal carrier, MV Shen Neng 1 ran aground east of Rockhampton in Central Queensland, Australia” now this accident wasn’t necessary a fault due to the EPA however the EPA failed to have sufficient coverage of tracking over the great barrier reef for ships travelling through which stated “The Great Barrier Reef Vessel Traffic Service was not able to warn him due to limited coverage of the area by their systems.” () Point is if they followed the objection of protection, than proper coverage would be assumed. These simple cases that show how people in our society neglect or environment and it generally ends worse off than when it started leading to the idea that the EPA objectives aren’t working. General public The EPA wasn’t just established to protect the environment from big companies and the government but also from the general public. When putting the act into practice, all parties from the big to small must be enforced however in some cases the general public are being pardoned for violations against the act due to the idea that the law is only enforced to big parties. A recent case saw a small family fighting the courts Legislation This Act is the Environment Protection Act 1997. Objects (1) The particular objects of this Act are— (a) to protect and enhance the quality of the environment; and (b) to prevent environmental degradation and adverse risks to human health and the health of ecosystems by promoting pollution prevention, clean production technology, reuse and recycling of materials and waste minimisation programs; and (c) to require people engaging in polluting activities to make progressive environmental improvements, including reductions of pollution at the source as such improvements become practical through technological and economic development; and (d) to achieve effective integration of environmental, economic and social considerations in decision-making processes; and (e) to promote the concept of a shared responsibility for the environment by acknowledging environmental needs in economic and social decision-making; and (f) to promote the concept of a shared responsibility for the environment through public education about and public involvement in decisions about protection, restoration and enhancement of the environment; and (g) to promote the principles of ecologically sustainable development; and (h) to regulate, reduce or eliminate the discharge of pollutants and hazardous substances into the air, land or water consistent with maintaining environmental quality; and (i) to allocate the costs of environmental protection and restoration equitably and in a way that encourages responsible use of, and reduces harm to, the environment with polluters bearing the appropriate share of the costs that arise from their activities; and (j) to facilitate the implementation of national environment protection measures under national scheme laws; and (k) to provide for the monitoring and reporting of the environmental quality on a regular basis in conjunction with the commissioner for sustainability and the environment; and (l) to control the generation, storage, collection, transportation, treatment and disposal of waste with a view to reducing, minimising and, where practical, eliminating harm to the environment; and (m) to adopt a precautionary approach when assessing environmental risk to ensure that all aspects of environmental quality, including ecosystem sustainability and integrity and beneficial use of the environment, are considered in assessing, and making decisions in relation to, the environment; and (n) to ensure that contaminated land is managed having regard to human health and the environment; and (o) to coordinate all activities as are necessary to protect, restore or improve the ACT environment; and (p) to establish a process for investigating and, where appropriate, remediating land areas where contamination is causing or is likely to cause—
  1. a significant risk of harm to human health; or
(ii) a significant risk of material environmental harm or serious environmental harm; and this Act must be construed and administered accordingly. (2) For subsection (1) (g), ecologically sustainable development means the effective integration of economic and environmental considerations in decision-making processes and to be achievable through implementation of the following principles: (a) the precautionary principle, namely, that if there is a threat of serious or irreversible environmental damage, a lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent environmental degradation; (b) the inter-generational principle, namely, that the present generation should ensure that the health, diversity and productivity of the environment is maintained or enhanced for the benefit of future generations; (c) conservation of biological diversity and ecological integrity; (d) improved valuation and pricing of environmental resources. (3) In this section: national scheme laws means— (a) the National Environment Protection Council Act 1994 (Cwlth); and (b) the National Environment Protection Council Act 1994 Case Studies High Court of Australia The Tasmanian Dam Case is the most famous and influential environmental law case in Australian history. In it, the Commonwealth Government succeeded in stopping a large hydro-electric dam proposed to be constructed in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. Federal Court of Australia The Flying Fox Case involved an application for an injunction to restrain the killing of thousands of flying foxes. The case was heard in the Federal Court in 2000-2001 and was the first test of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth) ("EPBC Act "). The Nathan Dam Case involved a judicial review application and an appeal against a decision involving a proposed large dam in central Queensland. The case was heard in the Federal Court. It was a major test case for environmental impact assessment under the EPBC Act and established that direct and indirect impacts of an action are relevant when assessing the impacts of actions under the Act. The Greentree Case involved an important trial and appeal in the Federal Court of Australia to restrain farmers in northern NSW from contravening the EPBC Act by clearing and ploughing 100 ha of a Ramsar Wetland in preparation for planting a wheat crop. The Japanese Whaling Case involved an application for a declaration and an injunction in the Federal Court under the EPBC Act to restrain Japanese whaling in the Australian Whale Sanctuary adjacent to Antarctica. The Wildlife Whitsunday Case involved a judicial review application in the Federal Court against decisions under the EPBC Act involving the greenhouse gas emissions from two large coal mines in Queensland. The Anvil Hill Case involved a judicial review application in the Federal Court against a decision under the EPBC Act concerning greenhouse gas emissions from a large coal mine in New South Wales, known as the Anvil Hill Project. The Waratah Coal Case involved judicial review proceedings in the Federal Court undertaken in 2008 by Waratah Coal Inc against a refusal of a $5.3 billion coal mine, railway and port by the Federal Environment Minister. The Paradise Dam Case involved an application in the Federal Court for a declaration and an injunction to restrain an alleged breach of a condition of approval under the EPBC Act for a large dam in Queensland. The Lamattina Case involved a civil prosecution in the Federal Court of a South Australian farmer for clearing 170 eucalyptus trees, thereby causing a significant impact on a threatened species contrary to section 18 of the EPBC Act. Alec Finlayson Pty Ltd v Armidale City Council involved litigation for negligence against a NSW local government for approving a residential development on contaminated land. The Volga Cases involved two related proceedings concerning the arrest of the Russian-flagged longline fishing vessel, Volga, which was apprehended by the Australian Navy for illegally fishing for Patagonian Toothfish in the Australian Fishing Zone (AFZ) adjacent to Heard and McDonald Islands, remote and uninhabited islands 4000 km southwest of Perth. Queensland Planning and Environment Court The Pelican Links Cases involved a series of cases in the Planning and Environment Court, Magistrates Court, District Court and Court of Appeal involving pre-emptive clearing and a planning appeal for a large residential development near Caloundra in South-East Queensland. The Tornabene appeal is a case study of a routine and typical development application and subsequent appeal under Queensland's planning laws. The Cassowary Case involved an appeal in the Planning and Environment Court under the Integrated Planning Act 1997 (Qld) concerning the impacts of a proposed rural residential subdivision on cassowary habitat. The Donnybrook Sand Mine Case involved an appeal in the Planning and Environment Court about a large sand mine adjacent to a Ramsar Wetland. The Frippery Case involved an application under the Nature Conservation Act 1992 (Qld) to restrain the electrocution of flying-foxes. Two trials were heard in the Planning and Environment Court and two appeals were made to the Queensland Court of Appeal. The Yardley Case involved another application under the Nature Conservation Act 1992 (Qld) in the Planning and Environment Court to restrain the electrocution of flying-foxes. The Plumb's Chambers Case involved an appeal in the Planning and Environment Court against demolition of two cultural heritage listed buildings at Warwick. Queensland Land and Resources Tribunal The Newlands Coal Mine Case involved an objection in the Queensland Land and Resources Tribunal (LRT) against the greenhouse gas emissions from the mining, transport and use of coal from the expansion of a large open cut coal mine in Queensland. The Sonoma Coal Mine Case involved an objection in the LRT against the greenhoues emissions from the mining, transport and use of coal from a large open cut coal mine in Queensland. Land Court of Queensland The Khyber Case involved an appeal to the Land Court of Queensland by a landholder against refusal of a tree clearing permit under the Land Act 1994 (Qld) for a pastoral property known as "Khyber". Applications for broadscale clearing such as involved in this appeal are no longer possible due to the phase-out of broadscale land clearing in Queensland in 2006. This case study is provided to explain and illustrate the operation of the concepts involved in Queensland's vegetation management system in practice. The Wandoan Coal Mine Case involved an objection to a major new open-cut coal mine proposed to operate for 30 years in Queensland and produce 1.3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases. District Court of Queensland R v Dempsey involved an application for leave to appeal to the Queensland Court of Appeal against a sentence imposed by the District Court of Queensland for illegal logging in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. The decision in the appeal stated important principles for sentencing of serious environmental crimes done for commercial gain. R v Boyle involved a prosecution and sentencing of a serious environmental crime in the District Court of Queensland. The facts involved clearing of a large swath of a national park by a grazier to allow ease of movement of his cattle between paddocks. Magistrates Court of Queensland Broughton v Nguyen involved a summary criminal prosecution in the Magistrates Court of Queensland for fisheries offences resulting in a $30,000 fine. NSW Land and Environment Court The Hudson Case involved a criminal prosecution in the NSW Land and Environment Court for illegal clearing of native vegetation on a grazing property known as "Yarrol" near Moree. The accused, Mr Hudson was convicted and fined $408,000, plus costs. NSW Local Court EPA v Feodoroff involved a summary criminal prosecution and sentencing for a relatively minor environmental offence in the NSW Local Court at Ballina. The case also involved a dispute on costs. Victorian Supreme Court Brown Mountain Logging Case involved a proceeding in the Victorian Supreme Court to restrain logging at Brown Mountain in East Gippsland. Victorian Civil & Administrative Tribunal The Hazelwood Power Station Case involved a judicial review proceeding in the Victorian Civil & Administrative Tribunal challenging the failure to consider greenhouse gas emissions when approving expansion of a coal mine to supply the Hazelwood Power Station. It was one of the first climate change cases in Australia. International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) The Volga Cases involved two related proceedings, one in the Federal Court of Australia and the other in the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. The cases concerned the arrest of the Russian-flagged longline fishing vessel, Volga, which was apprehended by the Australian Navy for illegally fishing for Patagonian Toothfish in the Australian Fishing Zone (AFZ) adjacent to Heard and McDonald Islands, remote and uninhabited islands 4000 km southwest of Perth.  
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