The public want stronger powers for EPA to pursue polluters

August 24 2017

Hugo Hodge

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By Hugo Hodge

Victorians want third-party enforcement rights to take action against big polluters in case the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) can’t or won’t, according to a new study. 

The Environment Justice Australia’s (EJA) community survey found people want stronger enforcement powers for the EPA and for human health to be a priority in decision making.

“The principle is essentially quite simple,” says the Director of Advocacy and Research Nicola Rivers on the EJA website.

“People who bear the burden of pollution should be able to question decisions that force that burden on them – and to have those decisions reviewed,” she says.

“Environmental justice cannot be achieved if communities have no right to be involved in decision-making; or in knowing what pollutants are being released into their environment; or in preventing the pollution of their communities.”

Survey respondents came from various parts of Melbourne and Victoria and were questioned on a wide range of pollution issues.

Air pollution was a significant issue with 47 percent of respondents identified air pollution as the predominant environmental justice issue in their area.

A notable issue to emerge from the survey was that people want to be involved in decision-making and for the EPA to be held to account for its actions.

The community wants the EPA and our environment protection laws to be the first line of defence against harm.

The state Government has said it is committed to implementing environmental justice into decision-making across all levels of government.

The Andrews Labor Government has committed $45.5 million to commence priority reforms which seek to modernise the EPA’s governance and overhaul the Environment Projection Act 1970.

Two separate pieces of legislation will replace the Act which will give the EPA strengthened governance and create a modernised Environment Protection Act which applies to the EPA and other entities charged with reducing pollution and waste impacts.

EJA believes this means environmental benefits and harms must be distributed evenly.

“People care deeply about the environment that surrounds them from the air they breathe and water they drink, to the nature they enjoy for recreation, relaxation and rejuvenation,” says Nicola Rivers.

“Everyone has an equal right to be involved in decision-making about their environment,” she says.

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