Paper Australia P/L (Australian Paper) has received Victorian state and federal funding to perform a feasibility study for an energy-from-waste 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.

Comment on the application

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What does the application propose?

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 energy-from-waste 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.

EPA’s works approval process

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).

What other approvals are needed?

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

The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning will decide if an environmental effects statement is needed.

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.