Contributed by EdwardAndre and current to 27 July 2018

Environmental Protection Act 1984 (WA) – EP Act

The EP Act is the main source of law dealing with environmental matters in WA. The long title or purpose of the act is:

An Act to provide for an Environmental Protection Authority, for the prevention, control and abatement of pollution and environmental harm, for the conservation, preservation, protection, enhancement and management of the environment and for matters incidental to or connected with the foregoing.

The ambit of what constitutes the environment is not settled in Australia and like sustainability is not static. In Crown and Murphy his honour defined environment as “that which surrounds…the conditions under which any person or thing lives”. In Coastal Waters (ex parte) and in the context of the EP Act environment was defined. "Environment" is written to make it clear that we are dealing with the total interrelationship between living things, and man”. Therefore, although the definition of the environment refers to economic considerations the court concluded that economic considerations are not included in the definition of the environment as this was the intent of parliament.

The first limb of the definition deals with pollution and environmental harm, preventing pollution occurring, controlling pollution that is occurring and abating pollution and environmental harm. The second limb generically covers the conservation, protection, preservation, protection and management of the environment and associated incidental matters.

Environmental Harm is defined in the EP act as “direct or indirect harm to the environment involving removal or destruction of, or damage to native vegetation or the habitat of native vegetation or indigenous aquatic or terrestrial animals or alteration to the environment to its detriment or potential detriment or degradation…” Environmental harm also alludes to the concept of pollution.

In the EP act pollution means direct or indirect alteration of the environment: to its detriment or degradation, to the detriment of an environmental value; or of a prescribed kind, that involves an emission, to the detriment of an environmental value. In Palos Verdes Estates Pty Ltd v Carbon it was held that pollution (for the purpose of s 49) should mean “to bear its ordinary meaning of “physically impure, foul or filthy”, thereby making the legislation capable of sensible operation”

Emission is defined in section 3 of the act, restricting the meaning of pollution to: as a discharge of waste; or emission of noise odour or electromagnetic radiation; or transmission of an electromagnetic radiation. This limitation on the definition of the word emission is significant to the acts application.

Since the words conservation and preservation are not defined in the act, the ordinary meaning of the words are used to identify true the intention of the act.

Planning and Environmental legislation

Legislation about planning and environment law like local planning schemes are creatures of parliament. What parliament creates it can undo.Local Planning Schemes are features of modern civilisation and affects almost any people. They are a creature of statute.
Arguably, both pieces of legislation are structured to protect the environment through the imposition of penalties.

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