The Victorian government has delayed a “complete overhaul” of environmental laws until 2021, but it might be just what in-house lawyers need to cope with during COVID-19.
The Amendment Act 2018 was due to come into operation on 1 July 2020, with the intention of repealing the Environment Protection Act 1970, but the Victorian Premier announced it will put the regime on hold until 1 December 2021 amid the coronavirus pandemic effects.
“These amendments provide duty holders under the EP Act and in-house counsel time to prepare for the introduction of the new laws and to digest the regulations, environmental reference standards, noise protocols and compliance codes,” an Allens’ insight read.
These reforms represent “some of the most significant changes” to Victoria’s environment regulatory regime since the commencement of the EP Act in 1970 and the deferral will be well received by the in-house industry as the “practical measures needed to prepare for the new regime may not have been feasibly achieved in the present environment”.
The Victorian Premier advised that the purpose of the deferral is to “allow businesses and industry to focus on the immediate impacts of coronavirus”.
According to insights from Corrs Chambers Westgarth, there is now less urgency to revisit and update environmental management systems, investigate the extent and nature of the pre-existing contamination, and update terms and conditions of sale and leases of land.
The deferral will mean that in-house counsel that are looking to invoke a “change of law” provision under existing contracts may need to re-evaluate that position.
Organisations that have not yet developed transition strategies for the EP Act should now revise the timeframes for implementing those strategies.