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EPA in turmoil after CEO suddenly resigns

Wednesday, 30 December 2020

EPA in turmoil after CEO suddenly resigns

The Andrews Labor Government’s environmental regulator, the EPA, has been left in turmoil after its CEO suddenly resigned late yesterday.

The resignation follows a litany of disasters and failures by the EPA to enforce and regulate Victoria’s environmental laws and bypassed legal processes.

The last nail in the coffin for the EPA’s CEO was the unlawful approval of toxic waste dumps in Bacchus Marsh, Ravenhall and Bulla earlier this month, to take PFAS toxic soil from the Andrews Labor Government’s Melbourne Metro and West Gate Tunnel projects, which are both billions of dollars over budget. In a major embarrassment, after the local community and school took the EPA to the Supreme Court to challenge the ‘environmental’ approvals, the EPA conceded it had no legal authority to approve the toxic waste dumps and was forced to revoke the approvals.

In the last two years the EPA has been plagued by regulatory failures, allowing Melbourne’s northern and western suburbs to be subjected to a spate of toxic fires as a result of illegal stockpiling of chemical waste. Residents in West Footscray, Coolaroo, Epping and Campbellfield were subjected to toxic smoke and chemical filled air for weeks, with schools being closed and residents evacuated from their homes.

Still today, people are warned to avoid contact with the Stony Creek in Footscray as a result of unknown chemicals that leaked into the creek.

In a scathing independent review conducted by Ernst & Young earlier this year (2020), it found the EPA:

  • Had ‘gaps’ in its governance and oversight;
  • Lacked ‘clearly defined standards and expectations’ surrounding key pollution documentation;
  • Required improvement in its ‘critical incident response’ decision making;
  • Had an ‘inconsistent approach to the documentation of pollution reports’;
  • Had ‘inadequate’ monitoring and reporting; and
  • Key performance indicators could be ‘circumvented’ and ‘manipulated’ by field officers.

Comments attributable to Shadow Minister for Environment and Climate Change, Bridget Vallence:

“The resignation of the EPA’s CEO confirms what we’ve known for a long time now, the Andrews Labor Government’s environmental regulator is in complete turmoil.

“The CEO was forced to resign after the EPA was exposed for unlawfully approving toxic waste dumps on the doorsteps of homes and a school, despite the Andrews Labor Government’s attempts to let this happen by rushing in last-minute regulations.

“Labor’s environmental regulator, the EPA, illegally fast-tracked approvals for three waste dumps so the Andrews Labor Government could start dumping toxic PFAS soil from the Melbourne Metro and West Gate Tunnel projects, which are billions of dollars over budget.

“The EPA’s CEO has now been made the scapegoat for many of the Andrews Labor Government’s failures. Environment Minister, Lily D’Ambrosio, now must consider whether she should also step down. 

“The Andrews Labor Government has allowed Victoria’s environmental laws to be abused by waste cowboys, and has given a tax-free ride to foreign-owned contractors to dump millions of tonnes of toxic PFAS tunnel soil on Victorian communities.

“It’s clear that neither the Andrews Labor Government nor its environmental regulator are up to the job in protecting Victoria’s precious environment. Victorians deserve better.”