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Enforcing Environmental Laws in the Land and Environment Court

The Land and Environment Court operates in a specialist jurisdiction dealing with cases that relate to mining, planning, the environment, local government and development. The Land and Environment Court was established by legislation and can only deal with matters that fall within its jurisdiction.

Civil Enforcement

Most environmental proceedings within NSW can be enforced through civil proceedings in the courts, particularly the Land and Environment Court where there is an alleged breach of an environmental law.

Civil action in the courts can be used to obtain court orders to prevent environmental harm from occurring which is beneficial as often in criminal proceedings, legal action is reactive and taken after harm has already been caused. For example an injunction can be sought in the Land and Environment Court to prevent an incident that would cause environmental harm.

Examples of actions that may be undertaken in the Land and Environment Court include:

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Costly Coal Spill in World Heritage Area

EPA v Clarence Colliery Pty Ltd; Chief Executive, Office of Environment & Heritage v Clarence Colliery Pty Ltd [2017] NSWLEC 82 per Robson J

Background

Clarence Colliery Pty Ltd (Clarence Colliery) operates a coal mine near Newnes Junction in the Blue Mountains area.  In July 2015 an overtopping incident occurred where 2,300 tonnes of coal escaped from a coal storage area and entered an unnamed watercourse, the Wollangambe River and the World Heritage listed Blue Mountains National Park.

National Parks are declared for exceptional natural values and must be protected for future generations.

The EPA issued clean-up notices and oversaw a comprehensive clean-up of the coal material including over 44 inspections and over 600 helicopter trips to remove the coal from the river. The clean-up efforts cost more than $2M.

Offences

In EPA v Clarence Colliery Pty Ltd; Chief Executive, Office of Environment & Heritage v Clarence Colliery Pty Ltd [2017] NSWLEC 82, Clarence Colliery was prosecuted by the Environment Protection Authority for negligently causing the escape of a coal material that harmed the environment.  The two offences were under:
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