The Government has been shown the way forward on pollution and needs to act.
Pollution is poorly regulated in NSW and comprehensive reform is needed. The amendments Environment Minister Robyn Parker made to the Government’s pollution laws in response to last year’s Orica debacle just tinkered at the edges. Now the NSW Nature Conservation Council and Environmental Defenders Office have set out what really needs to be done to reign in the state’s pollution.
Their Clearing the Air report sets out a clear agenda for legislative and operational reform aimed at restoring public faith in NSW’s pollution control system. Read the report here. They say regulation of pollution in NSW must move from granting permission to pollute, to a limit based approach that prevents or minimises environmental harm arising from industrial activities.
On behalf of the Greens I have been calling for pollution law reform to place communities and the environment first and foremost, clamp down on habitual breaches and properly deal with cumulative impacts.
Last year I introduced a Bill to fix lax NSW pollution laws that allowed polluters to delay notifying the public of pollution incidents. My bill required authorities to be notified immediately and was introduced in the wake of the Orica chemical leak at Stockton near Newcastle which put the community at risk of hexavalent chromium poisoning. The bill helped prompt the government to act to address the notification delay with their own legislation. I also sat on the parliamentary inquiry into the Orica incident which recently reported. Read the report of the inquiry here.
The Greens are now pushing for more comprehensive reform and I have sent a letter to the Minister. My strong suggestion would be to implement all of the 30+ recommendations in the Clearing the Air report.
My confidence is not inspired when I hear that Mr Alec Brennan has been appointed to the Minister’s new Board of the Environment Protection Authority (EPA), considering he was the CEO of a company that received a record $280,000 fine for releasing toxic pollution into the Parramatta River and failing to notify the EPA for more than 24 hours. The Minister would be well advised to remove Mr Brennan and replace him with someone who instead has form as a successful advocate for local communities and the environment.