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Environment Protection Authority

Environmental Issues

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Environmentally hazardous chemicals

Review of the Environmentally Hazardous Chemicals (EHC) legislation

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) is undertaking a review of the specialised legislation that the EPA uses to manage and prevent adverse impacts from environmentally hazardous chemicals on human health and the environment.

Why is the EPA reviewing the EHC legislation?

The legislation has not undergone a fundamental review since it commenced in 1985. Since that time new industrial chemicals and chemical processes have been developed together with new technologies. These developments have given rise to new and emerging hazardous chemical issues, highlighting the need for a modern, streamlined industrial chemicals legislation that is able to respond to such issues.

Discussion Paper

The EPA prepared a Proposed Reforms to Environmentally Hazardous Chemicals Legislation - Discussion Paper (PDF 324KB) outlining proposed changes to the EHC legislation. The proposals in the discussion paper include:

  • Provision of a modern suite of regulatory and enforcement tools broadly aligned with other legislation administered by the EPA.
  • Establishment of transparent schedules of environmentally hazardous chemicals, to which the EHC Act's legislative controls would apply. A schedule will provide for automatic referencing to a new national list of standardised environment controls on industrial chemicals.
  • Streamlining and modernising the process for making and amending Chemical Control Orders, the primary regulatory instrument under the current Act.
  • Ending dual licensing where a licensee already holds an Environment Protection Licence issued under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 relating to an activity or premises involving the same chemical for which they hold an EHC licence.
  • Removing obsolete chemical assessment functions (now performed by the Australian Government's National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme).
  • Enabling the EPA to convene an ad-hoc independent expert advisory panel or call upon an independent expert when required and be able to recover costs where appropriate.
  • Abolition of the obsolete Hazardous Chemicals Advisory Committee.
  • Providing the independent EPA Board with the power to grant an exemption from provisions of the EHC Act in line with the exemption power that already exists under the Pesticides Act 1999 and the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997.
  • Enabling regulations or Chemical Control Orders to include notification requirements for specified chemicals.
  • Introducing a sliding scale of fees for the assessment of technology proposals to broadly reflect the scale and complexity of each particular technology assessment.
  • Replacing the current preamble to the Act with an objects section to bring the Act in line with modern legislation and make other consequential and machinery changes to the Act such as updating definitions in the EHC Act.

Further information about some of the proposed changes can be found by visiting the Review of the Environmentally Hazardous Chemicals Act 1985 - Questions and Answers page.

The discussion paper was released for public comment from 9 July to 21 August 2015. The EPA received 10 submissions. These submissions are currently being considered and will assist in the development of amending EHC legislation.

Review of Chemical Control Orders

The EPA is also undertaking a review of all existing Chemical Control Orders. It will be a staged approach to enable the EPA to thoroughly assess the adequacy of each order and to determine whether improvements are required. If you wish to be involved in the review, please register your interest by emailing chemicals.reform@epa.nsw.gov.au including your contact details and nominating the chemical control order/s that you would be interested in commenting on.

Further information about the review will be posted on this website as the review progresses.

Page last updated: 07 October 2015