Works approval reissued

EPA has issued an amended works approval for the Australian Paper waste to energy project. The amended approval has been issued in accordance with VCAT orders following a negotiated agreement between Environment East Gippsland, Australian Paper and EPA.

The updated works approval does not change the overall nature or intent of the original but is more specific in some sections. The amendment includes additional requirements for semi-continuous monitoring of dioxins and furans, and also specifies limitations to burning of wood waste.

Australian Paper will need to comply with the requirements of this approval in constructing the facility and will require an EPA licence for its operation.

We continue to value the input from the community of the Latrobe valley into our assessment processes and encourage the community's future engagement.

VCAT appeal

Following EPA's issue of a works approval to Australian Paper, an application for review of the decision was lodged with the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT). This has now been resolved as described above. EPA’s assessment of the works approval application is outlined below.

On 28 November 2018, EPA granted a works approval to Australian Paper for a large-scale waste-to-energy facility in Maryvale in the Latrobe Valley. Before the business applies for an EPA operating licence, it will seek to secure waste contracts and apply for a planning permit from Latrobe City Council. Completion of final detailed design, construction and commissioning will all need to be consistent with the works approval before Australian Paper can apply for an EPA operating licence.

The decision followed many months of consultation and research, including taking in 128 submissions and an extension of time to review additional information.

EPA’s assessment included investigating world’s best practice and ensuring compliance with Victorian environmental policy. We visited sites with regulators in Europe to inform our decision. We also addressed community concerns and incorporated recommendations from the independent chair’s report on the community conference held in July.

EPA’s assessment of the application considered issues such as:

  • use of best-practice technology
  • energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions
  • waste fuel composition
  • compliance with the waste hierarchy
  • the principles of the Environment Protection Act 1970
  • environmental management and potential risks to human health and the environment, including emissions to air, noise and disposal of fly ash
  • the wastewater treatment system
  • operational contingencies.

The following documents are available to understand the decision:

  • summary of EPA's assessment
  • complete assessment report
  • works approval statutory document.

Human health impact assessment

Australian Paper completed a health impact assessment (HIA) and included it in its application. This forms part of the application that EPA assessed.

Read the HIA and original application documents in the 'Supporting documents' section of this page.

Independent chair report from public meeting

EPA held a public meeting on 25 July 2018 in the Premiere Function Centre, Traralgon. The independent chair report is now available here.


Background

Paper Australia P/L (Australian Paper) has received Victorian state and federal funding to perform a feasibility study for a waste-to-energy plant at its paper mill in Maryvale in the Latrobe Valley.

On 25 May 2018, the business submitted a final works approval application for the plant to EPA, as per section 19B(c) of the Environment Protection Act 1970.


The proposed facility is a combined heat and power plant that produces steam for direct use in the paper mill or to drive a turbine that produces electricity for the grid, using waste as a fuel.

The facility will replace two existing gas-fired boilers at the mill and will use an estimated 650,000 tonnes of non-hazardous and residual waste per annum, generating 225MW of thermal energy.

Municipal solid waste (80 per cent) and commercial and industrial waste (20 per cent) used in the facility will come from existing waste collection networks in Melbourne and Gippsland and travel to the site by road and rail.

The application represents the first waste-to-energy facility of this scale and fuel type in Victoria.

The plant’s proposed technology is a ‘moving grate’ incinerator and, after incineration, waste will be reduced in volume by 75 per cent. Australian Paper proposes to begin operation in 2023, subject to all approvals (see ‘What other approvals are needed?’ on this page).

The proposed activity is scheduled under the Environment Protection (Scheduled Premises) Regulations 2017 and requires an EPA works approval and licence. Australian Paper has submitted a works approval application for EPA to consider.

A works approval is a statutory approval issued by EPA. It permits, subject to certain conditions, the construction of a plant (such as an industrial facility), installation of equipment or modification of a process.

Approval is required for industrial and waste management works that may result in any of the following:

  • discharge of waste into the environment (air, water or land)
  • an increase in, or alteration to, an existing discharge
  • a change in the way waste is treated or stored.

Our works approval process is designed to ensure the best and most cost-effective environmental outcomes on projects are achieved. Without works approvals there is an increased risk of industrial projects causing pollution and requiring expensive retrofitting. Works approvals are an opportunity to save energy and water, and to reduce waste at the project design stage, creating value for a business.

Public participation is an important principle of the Environment Protection Act 1970 and the works approval process. Accordingly, we invite the public to comment on works approval applications and some types of licence applications over a set consultation period.

During this consultation period, we may hold public open-house information sessions to explain the works approval process and provide information on the works approval application. We consider all such comments during our assessment of these applications. Applications are also referred to other relevant agencies for their review and advice.

The works approval process is designed to identify any community concerns early on and allow prompt resolution. If comments are received from any third parties, we give applicants an opportunity to address the concerns raised. We may also convene a conference of the parties to assist in resolving those concerns.

We complete our assessment taking into account our own technical appraisals, referral agency responses, public comments received and any applicant responses. We will then decide whether to issue a works approval and whether to attach any conditions to the approval.

The Environment Protection Act requires us to make a decision on works approval applications within four months of receiving a complete application, although we aim to complete our determination in three months. We may request further information from the applicant during the process or require an extension of time to complete the assessment.

If an appeal, by the applicant or affected third parties, is made against a works approval decision and/or any conditions attached to a works approval, the appeal will be heard by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

When a works approval has been issued, the applicant must construct the works in accordance with the approved plans and any conditions (which include a completion date for all works). When the works are complete, the applicant must contact EPA to arrange an inspection of them.

In most cases, a licence will then be required for operation of the works. Where appropriate, we will issue a commissioning approval before the licence, to allow startup and testing of initial operations and to confirm compliance with the works approval.

Further information on works approvals and EPA’s works approval process can be found in EPA works approvals (publication 1523).

A planning permit for buildings and works is required under the Latrobe Planning Scheme.

Prior to submitting their Works Approval Application to EPA, Australian Paper wrote to Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning seeking confirmation on whether an Environmental Effects Statement (EES) was required for this application. On May 2, 2018, the Minister for Planning decided that an EES is not required.

The current site is licensed as a major hazardous facility with a requirement to notify WorkSafe of any proposed changes to the site’s safety case. This notification is in progress.

The application has been referred to the Country Fire Authority due to a bushfire management overlay and for the storage of dangerous goods. This notification is also in progress.

EPA received 115 submissions during the extended public consultation period (30 June to 6 July 2018). Refer to the summary of the questionnaire results and the detailed submissions.

  • 6 submissions were received via email.
  • 109 submissions were lodged online through this site (Engage Victoria):
    • 84 support the application
    • 8 support with conditions
    • 8 objection
    • 9 undecided (left blank)

Referral responses to EPA requests for comments have been received from:

  • Sustainability Victoria
  • Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group
  • Gippsland Waste and Resource Recovery Group
  • West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority
  • Gippsland Water
  • Latrobe City Council.

EPA received an additional 13 submissions on the health impact assessment that was submitted in late September and made open for public comment.

On 10 July 2018, following a review of submissions and referrals, EPA requested this additional information (S22 notice) from Australian Paper:

  • Responses to the submissions received
  • Information requested by the referral authorities
  • Further information to demonstrate the proposed flue gas treatment system technology meets international best practice

On 23 July 2018, Australian Paper responded to EPA's request for additional information. The response is divided into two documents:

EPA held a public meeting, known as a Section 20B Conference, on 25 July 2018 from 6pm to 9pm at:

Premiere Function Centre
29 Grey Street, Traralgon

The meeting was independently chaired to ensure EPA understands the views of the community regarding this works approval application.

The independent chair has prepared a report (available here) detailing community concerns raised in the submissions and at the meeting with possible solutions. The report includes recommendations EPA must consider in the technical assessment.