Businesses pay high price for environmental non-compliance

29 July 2019
Stafford Hopewell, Partner, Brisbane

In Queensland, businesses that fail to comply with environmental obligations under the Environmental Protection Act 1994 (EP Act) risk enforcement and prosecution action by the Department of Environment and Science (Department), including the imposition of significant fines and recording of convictions, as illustrated by the following cases.

 

Waste Transfer Business

A company operating a waste transfer business has been fined $18,000 and ordered to pay legal and investigation costs of more than $6,750 after unsuccessfully contesting a penalty infringement notice (PIN) given by the Department in respect to wilfully contravening a condition of the company’s environmental authority (EA) under section 430 of the EP Act.

Under the EA, the company was required to install and maintain all measures, plant and equipment necessary to ensure compliance with the conditions of the EA. Following inspections of the premises, the Department identified a number of non-compliances in terms of maintenance of measures, including drainage controls. Similar issues had been observed and raised in earlier inspections.

The Department issued a PIN to the company in the amount of $12,190. Rather than pay the fine, the company elected to contest the PIN in Court. However, the company subsequently pleaded guilty and was fined $18,000 and ordered to pay $6006.89 in investigation costs and $750 in legal costs. No conviction was recorded.

 

Tyre Recycling Business

The failure to comply with an environmental protection order (EPO) and maintain proper records has proved costly for a tyre recycling business. Tyremil Group Pty Ltd (in liquidation) (Tyremil) operated a tyre recycling business at a site in Kingston in South East Queensland pursuant to an EA.

Following inspection of the property in 2015, Departmental officers became concerned about the storage of tyres on the site which posed a fire risk. The Department subsequently issued Tyremil with an EPO to take action to reduce the risk of fire to the environment and community. The Queensland Fire and Emergency Service also issued a requisition requiring the company to take measures to reduce the fire risk.

The company however failed to take action and was subsequently prosecuted by the Department in the Brisbane Magistrates Court for failure to comply with the EPO. The company was also charged with further offences in relation to:

  • Waste tracking offences under the Environmental Protection Regulation;
  • Providing a document containing false or misleading information;
  • Failing to attend a stated place at a stated time to answer questions.

Tyremil was found guilty by the Court of a total of 58 offences and was fined $305,000 and ordered to pay legal and investigation costs.  A conviction was also recorded.

 

Key Takeaway

Businesses need to carefully consider their environmental obligations and take appropriate action to comply or face the risk of prosecution and substantial penalties.

Where non-compliance does occur, businesses will usually benefit from taking prompt action to rectify and the failure to act on orders or directions will typically result in the escalation of enforcement action or prosecution.


Authored by:

Stafford Hopewell, Partner

Claire Lovejoy, Director

This update does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. It is intended only to provide a summary and general overview on matters of interest and it is not intended to be comprehensive. You should seek legal or other professional advice before acting or relying on any of the content.

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