The duty to report pollution incidents and regulator image in New South Wales pollution law
A regulator's image is important in ensuring compliance. From its inception in 1992, the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) was perceived as the strong regulator needed to ensure protection of the State's environment from pollution. However, a 2011 pollution event involving a breach of the statutory duty to report a pollution incident as soon as practicable by a company proved to be a defining moment for the EPA. It highlighted that, as a result of the EPA's amalgamation into a larger government department in 2003, it had lost its public visibility as a regulator. The EPA was re-established as a separate, independent agency. Legislative changes were also made to strengthen the duty to report. This article considers the incident and subsequent case law regarding the duty to report, and its impact on the EPA's image as a regulator. It argues that the case law has potentially undone the purpose behind the legislative amendments and the duty to report; namely, to ensure that regulators are quickly made aware of pollution incidents. This impacts upon the ability of regulators to effectively perform their protective role and has consequently weakened their position.