Ongoing funding for the Upper Hunter Air Quality Monitoring Network: Public consultation on proposed regulation

The Upper Hunter Air Quality Monitoring Network (UHAQMN) is the regional air quality monitoring network in the Upper Hunter Region.

How has the UHAQMN been funded so far?

To date, operators of coal mines and coal-powered electricity generators in the Singleton and Muswellbrook local government areas have funded the UHAQMN under two voluntary Deeds of Agreement. Under these Deeds, industry agreed to fund the capital cost of establishing the UHAQMN, including an annual operating cost.

However, these Deeds of Agreement will expire in December 2012, and there is no obligation on parties to the Deeds to renew their obligations.

Why is a Regulation necessary?

Amending the Protection of the Environment Operations (General) Regulation 2009 to require licensees to fund the UHAQMN will ensure an ongoing, secure, transparent and equitable funding of the Network.

Under the proposed Regulation, holders of environment protection licences that authorise coal mining and electricity generation in the Upper Hunter region will be required to pay a levy towards the cost of the ongoing operation of the UHAQMN. Consistent with the ‘polluter pays’ principle, the levy will be calculated using formulas in the Regulation, which will ensure that the levy payable is proportionate to the amount of particulates, SO2 and NOx emitted by the licensee.

When evaluating whether a Regulation was necessary, renegotiating the Deeds of Agreement as an alternative was considered. However, it was determined that a Regulation was a more equitable option rather than creating new Deeds of Agreement because:

  • inequities could arise if individual coal mine and electricity generation licensees refuse to sign a new Deed, resulting in all other operators having to pay more as the total cost would be divided between fewer parties
  • the secure nature of the funding arrangements under the Regulation means that some mine-operated monitoring sites can be removed in consultation with the Department of Planning and Infrastructure, giving industry a cost-saving to offset the levy.

In addition, the Regulation requires the EPA to:

  • prepare a report each year that contains an analysis of the results of the air quality monitoring carried out under the UHAQMN
  • arrange and report on an independent audit of the UHAQMN to review its efficiency and cost effectiveness every five years
  • ensure that all data from the UHAQMN and EPA reports are accessible on the internet.

Advisory Committee

In September 2010, the UHAQMN Advisory Committee (the Advisory Committee) was established to advise the EPA and the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) on matters specifically related to the design and operation of the UHAQMN. Representatives from the coal mining, power generation and rural industries, local government, the Department of Planning and Infrastructure, NSW Health, the local community and environmental groups make up the Advisory Committee.

Proposed changes - public consultation has closed

Public consultation on the proposed changes to the Regulation closed on 21 October 2012. Comments received are currently being considered by the EPA.

Page last updated: 17 September 2013