EPA regulatory approach
As South Australia’s leading environmental regulator, the EPA employs best practice regulatory principles and tools and robust processes to:
- support and enable the willing to comply or go beyond compliance
- tackle the important environmental issues with a proportionate, risk and evidence-based approach
- withstand challenge
- take decisive, timely and strong enforcement action when needed.
Much of this is achieved by providing advice and guidance, partnering with other organisations, education and regulation. However, in some circumstances, we will use our enforcement powers.
Our aim is that the balanced and principled use of compliance and enforcement tools will ensure that our actions are consistent, fair and effective, and will provide assurance to the community that the EPA is working to fulfil its role of protecting the environment.
Our core principles
The EPA’s regulatory approach is based on the foundation of firm and fair compliance and enforcement. We are guided by the following core principles:
We will ensure that any measure taken is proportional to the risks posed to the environment and the seriousness of the offence. As far as the law allows, the EPA will take into account the circumstances of each case when considering the action we will take.
We will be fair, equitable and apply consistent processes in all cases. We will ensure all officers are trained, and there are effective systems and operational policies in place to support them.
We will openly share information about our decisions and actions. We will assist the regulated community to understand what is required of them and what they should expect from the EPA. We will make available information on the public register as required by the law.
We will ensure our regulatory effort is directed primarily towards those activities that pose the greatest risks, cause the greatest environmental damage or undermine the regulatory regime.
We will work in a timely manner to manage, inform and progress without delay.
How we interact and intervene
Regulatory interactions and compliance interventions undertaken may be a combination of encouragement and deterrence to motivate action and deliver improved outcomes, and use a range of targeted tools involving the key elements depicted below. A team-based approach to activity is encouraged, along with peer review and appropriate levels of decision making to support the EPA’s goal of consistency and providing a level-playing field for industry.
The EPA’s approach to regulation considers compliance attitude/behaviour (see below). It is based on the environmental risk posed by the operations of licencees, as well as the level of regulatory effort required to ensure compliance.
When taking enforcement action:
- The EPA will not ignore any negligent or criminal act which threatens or damages the environment or which undermines the regulatory regime.
- The EPA will have regard to and seek to further the objects of the Environment Protection Act 1993, including taking into account social, environmental and economic factors when making regulatory decisions.
- Environmental legislation provides the EPA with a variety of regulatory tools and the ability to exercise discretion to determine which tool is appropriate for particular circumstances. The suite of enforcement tools includes criminal prosecution, and administrative and civil proceedings. The various tools may be used in conjunction with one another where necessary. The Regulatory options and tools provides detailed information about the tools the EPA may use to manage non-compliance and the circumstances under which the tools may be applied.
- In determining an appropriate course of action, the EPA will consider a variety of factors including, but not limited to the:
- seriousness of the contravention, for example the nature and extent of the impact, harm or potential harm to the environment or the potential to undermine the regulatory regime
- extent and speed of remediation action required
- compliance history.
When a non-compliance by an industry is identified, the initial priority is to stop, sanction and treat the non-compliance.
Stop: Cease the contravention activity to protect the environment or the integrity of the regulated community. An example is the use of environment protection orders, as they are a powerful tool to stop the negative impact from a contravention. An order can be a direction or agreement to prevent harm, to make good or to stop an activity until it is compliant.
Sanction: Issue deterrent or penalty for contravention, such as strong action taken or punishment given. This is derived from consideration of the impact of the contravention and the compliance attitude behaviour of the alleged offender.
Treat: Influence the behaviour or culture of the person or corporation that contravened the EP Act. This deals with the root causes for a contravention (a failure in oversight, maintenance, training, procedures or planning) and how we may influence internal changes by the alleged offender.
By addressing these 3 components it is anticipated that recurrence of similar contraventions will be reduced.
The EPA utilises a suite of compliance and enforcement tools, ranging from cautionary advice and formal warnings, to court action which may result in a significant fine, and exercises discretion to determine which tool is appropriate for particular circumstances.
There may be circumstances where you are concerned about or dispute an EPA compliance and enforcement decision, action or order. In such cases you should, in the first instance, discuss the matter with the EPA officer involved or their supervisor.
Other avenues of appeal are available via the Environment Resources and Development Court or the State Ombudsman. Appeals through the Environment Resources and Development Court usually have associated timeframes within which the appeal must be lodged. The format of the appeal is set by the Court.
- Environmental regulation using risk-based approach
– flow chart
– a guide for EPA staff
- Becoming a harms-based regulator – developing a problem-solving culture
- Review of EPA regulatory practice – tools and approaches.