Environmental Compliance Australia

Environmental Compliance Australia

Nicolaas Kerkmeester October 26, 2021

In this article, we cover the topic of environmental compliance in Australia. In our industry we often refer to compliance; compliance with regulatory requirements, compliance with client or stakeholder requirements, compliance with industry best practice, and compliance with environmental management systems. 

But what does environmental compliance actually mean, why should you be concerned with it and what does it entail? This article sets out to answer these questions for you.

What is Environmental Compliance? 

Compliance is defined as ‘conformity in fulfilling official requirements’. That is exactly what environmental compliance means; conformity in fulfilling environmental requirements. It is the adherence to all relevant environmental laws, regulations, standards and other requirements that apply to your organisation’s activities, services and products. 

The importance of being environmentally compliant isn’t just about being green. It is essential to ensure the success of your operations by limiting your exposure to penalties and public scrutiny. Furthermore, identifying opportunities for improvement.

What is the Purpose of Environmental Compliance?

One of the most straightforward arguments for environmental compliance is that you have to do it; either it is the law, your approval conditions or your contract requirements. Government agencies enforce regulations and failure to meet their regulatory requirements can lead to fines/prosecutions which can be costly.

However, there are other reasons that should encourage you to adhere to environmental compliance:

– Promoting environmental compliance and best practice can attract new customers who want to buy products and services from an environmentally friendly business.

– Reducing the environmental impact of your business will improve the sustainability of your operations for longer term success.

– Promoting your employees to take an interest in your operations and environmental compliance. Failing to do so could negatively impact on the business as a whole.

Regulatory Requirements

Environmental laws and regulations relevant to your organisation will depend on your operations and location. In Australia, the Commonwealth, States/Territories and Local governments jointly administer environmental protection laws.

In Queensland, you and your business have a legal duty to meet general environmental protection obligations. This applies to all businesses and citizens. The Environmental Protection Act 1994 lists obligations and offences to prevent environmental harm, nuisances and contamination.

Environmental Compliance Assessment

An assessment of your environmental compliance with relevant legislation can be complicated. We have put together an environmental compliance assessment checklist below to assist you with considering your compliance obligations.

Environmental Compliance Checklist
Environmental Compliance Checklist

An environmental compliance audit can be used to assess your compliance as discussed in the section below.

We would recommend engaging Applied Environment & Safety to undertake an assessment of your compliance with relevant environmental requirements. Examples of compliance assessments that we undertaken are detailed below.

Compliance Through an Environment Audit

An environmental audit can be used to investigate the compliance status your operations and/or extent of your liability. This process is a systematic evaluation focusing on current operations and management procedures and processes. Assurance through auditing verification and reporting programs can be used to identify gaps and limitations.

An environmental audit can help to assess the nature and extent of your current impacts on the environment and compliance with regulatory requirements. This will enable you to:

– Identify how you could reduce your impact

– Prioritise environmental management activities

– Demonstrate your accountability to the government, customers and shareholders.

Environmental Compliance Australia Examples

Hereunder are some practical examples of how environmental compliance is applied to a number of different industry sectors that we service.

Power & Transmission

Applied Environment & Safety provided environmental support in the early contractor involvement (ECI) stage of the ElectraNet Eyre Peninsular transmission line upgrade project. This project involved constructing a new 270 km transmission line from Cultana to Port Lincoln in South Australia, as well as major construction works on substations.

Specific environmental management sub-plans were developed to ensure compliance with legislation, project-specific approvals and client contract specifications. This included soil, water, vegetation, waste, landholder and cultural heritage sub-plans. 

Permit applications were also developed to ensure compliance with South Australian legislation. This included Water Affecting Activities Permits for the construction of waterway crossings. 

Onshore Oil & Gas

Applied Environment & Safety regularly provides health, safety and environmental management support to Buru Energy. Buru Energy is an onshore oil and gas company based in Western Australia. 

Recently we were engaged by Buru Energy to undertake an audit of their Health, Safety and Environmental Management System against relevant legislation. This included undertaking a review and gap analysis of their current management system documents. An audit report with recommendations to ensure compliance was developed following the audit.

Roads & Transports

Applied Environment & Safety, provided environmental compliance support to Hazell Bros during the construction of the Bruce Highway upgrade project located between Gympie and Maryborough in southeast Queensland. 

At the commencement of construction, an audit was undertaken to ensure compliance with the requirements in the Environmental Management Plan. Then monthly inspections were undertaken to ensure ongoing compliance. This included inspection of sediment and erosion controls, waste and water management, and hazardous substance storage and use. Short reports were developed following the inspections for submission to the Department of Transport and Main Roads.

If you have any further questions or queries about environmental compliance or your project needs an environmental compliance audit, contact us.