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Protection of the Environment Operations Amendment (Asbestos Waste) Bill 2018

On 24 October 2018, the New South Wales upper house introduced the Protection of the Environment Operations Amendment (Asbestos Waste) Bill 2018 (the Bill) with the stated aim of ‘[making] clearer the Government is serious about protecting the environment of New South Wales and the health of its citizen’, as well as ‘provide greater deterrence against illegal dumping of asbestos waste’.

The current laws on illegal dumping, transporting, and recycling of asbestos waste

The current version of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (NSW) (the Act) provides for prohibitions against unauthorised dumping and receiving of waste in general [Ss 143 & 144, of the Act]. This general prohibition is complimented by asbestos-related provisions within the Protection of the Environment Operations (Waste) Regulations 2014 (NSW) (Waste Regulations), which detail the requirements for handling of asbestos waste. For example, the Waste Regulations requires the person delivering the asbestos waste to notify the owner of the landfill that will be receiving the asbestos waste [Clause 80(2), Waste Regulations], the occupier of the landfill site to cover up the disposed asbestos waste in certain manners [Clause 80(4), Ibid], the transportation of asbestos waste to follow certain regulatory requirements, including securing the asbestos materials securely during transport [Clause 78, Ibid] and wetting down the waste if the asbestos materials are contained soil [Clause 78(d), Ibid]. The Waste Regulations also expressly bans recycling and reusing asbestos materials [Clause 81, Ibid].
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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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