Environmental Protection Bill Catches Landowners
Update: 15 April 2016
Earlier this month, Energy, Environment & Agriculture Partner, Melanie Findlay wrote of concerns with the wording of “related persons” in the draft Environmental Protection (Chain of Responsibility) Amendment Bill 2016.
Melanie recently spoke at the Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources Committee’s examination of the Mineral and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2016. The transcript of proceedings has since been released.
The Environmental Protection (Chain of Responsibility) Amendment Bill 2016 Report from the Parliamentary Committee concerning examination of the Bill was tabled on the 15 April 2016.
From this report it is clear the committee has noticed that there are severe drafting problems in regard to the width of the definition of “related persons”. They acknowledge that it is undesirable to have an owner of land covered by the new legislation and have recommended to the House that subsection 363AB(1)(b) in clause 7 be omitted from the Bill.
We will advise if the House follows this recommendation as soon as word comes to hand.
The Environmental Protection (chain of responsibility) Bill 2016 has been referred to the Agriculture and environment committee for a report back by 15 April 2016. The purpose of the Bill is to bring to account companies and people that cause environmental damage, who are avoiding their clean up responsibilities by using complicated company arrangements to run away from their obligations.
Whilst the Bill allows regulators to pierce the corporate veil and pursue controllers of these companies, there are some drafting problems that landowners should be concerned about.
“Related persons” under the Bill are required to take steps to comply with orders for clean up by regulators. “Related persons” specifically includes owners of land on which the company carries out or has carried out the environmental authority.
There has been limited if any consultation on the Bill and the consequences for landowners are very undesirable. Why should a landowner who had no control over a mining companies activities on their land (they may have even objected!) be required to clean up after a mining company?