Stronger environment laws passed to plug loopholes which let criminals, polluters go scotfree

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Landmark reforms to better protect the environment, prevent contamination and illegal dumping have passed NSW Parliament overnight.

NSW Environment Minister James Griffin said the Environment Legislation Amendment Bill 2021, will help stop innocent landowners and the Government footing the bill for illegal dumping and contaminated land.

“When our environmental laws were introduced decades ago, they were used as the benchmark around Australia. Since 2012, they’ve been used to successfully prosecute nearly 680 polluters and make them pay $12 million through the courts for their crimes,” Mr Griffin said.

“Criminal behaviour has evolved since then, which is why we’re strengthening the law so waste criminals can’t exploit and profit from loopholes.”

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In the past three years, these loopholes have seen more than 132,000 tonnes of contaminated waste being illegally dumped in NSW, and innocent landholders or Government being left with substantial clean-up costs.

Some updates to the legislation will:

  • Prevent individuals and related companies benefitting from their crimes by ensuring they can be held to account even if they dissolve companies in an attempt to avoid responsibility
  • Ensure compliance history is considered when deciding to issue or amend an environment protection licence
  • Ensure action can be taken against the owners of vehicles involved in illegal waste dumping. Previously, the law only applied to the driver of the vehicle
  • Ensure contaminated property continues to be properly managed or cleaned up when land is sold, or if operations have finished. This means it won’t be left to government or innocent landholders to manage
  • Add new and increased maximum penalties, to further deter criminal behaviour
  • Increase protections for officers investigating environmental offences so they can do their jobs safely.
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“These changes will ensure those responsible for contamination and pollution can be made to clean it up or manage it into the future,” Mr Griffin said.

“This is good news for the environment, and for communities that have suffered from the actions of environmental criminals.”