NSW environment bill 'a betrayal'

Issue 

By David Brazil

SYDNEY — The NSW state government is facing strong criticism from environmental groups over its proposed Environment Protection Authority (EPA).

Legislation to establish the new body, which is to replace the State Pollution Control Commission, was introduced into parliament by environment minister Tim Moore.

Meeting with the minister last week, peak environment groups outlined their main areas of concern.

The new organisation has been saddled with the twin objectives of environmental protection and "sustaining economic activities". This means that marginal industries, which often are the worst polluters, will be able to argue economic hardship and avoid having to clean up their operations.

"Under the new bill, the EPA will have to help polluters pollute our air and water and woodchippers destroy our forests", says Jeff Angel, assistant director of the Total Environment Centre. "The public have been betrayed by the Greiner government", he added.

The bill also calls for establishment of an Environmental Council, appointed by the minister, with the power to decide if individuals or community groups can take polluters to court. This will close the door to community litigation against polluters.

Environmental groups were also angry that the bill was introduced to parliament before the closing date for submissions and comments from the public. "The consultation process is just a farce. The government should be condemned for forcing the EPA bill through parliament without adequate public consultation", said Angel.

Following the breakdown of talks with the minister, the environment groups will now appeal to the upper house to amend the bill.