Environmental authorisations (licences)
The index below holds information on the EPA’s licences, exemptions and works approvals.
Search the index using licence number, licensee name or suburb/town to view the environmental licences currently held by the EPA as part of its public register. In some instances a licensee’s name may be different to their trading name.
The information you will see includes licence name, address and location, as well as the activity(ies) that the licence covers, the duration (term) of the licence and the specific conditions of the licence.
Some licence conditions may refer to the existence of attachments and related documents eg environment management plans (EMP) and environment improvement programs (EIP). These documents are not on the website, but can be requested by contacting the EPA on 8204 2004 or email. Please quote the licence number when making your request and note that a fee may apply for accessing this information. Read for further information about fees.
Licences are documents that are subject to change. The index will be updated quarterly to reflect these changes and new licences.
Frequently asked questions
What is an environmental authorisation?
Under the Environment Protection Act 1993, the EPA administers 3 types of authorisations: Licences, Exemptions and Works approvals
Licences make up the significant majority (approximately 95%) of authorisations administered by the EPA. It is common for the term licence to be used interchangeably with the term authorisation.
Why do we need environmental licensing?
Licensing is a fundamental tool under the Environment Protection Act 1993 to control risks and reduce environmental impacts. Licensing provides the EPA with the power to regulate activities undertaken by South Australian businesses or industry that pose significant risk to the environment.
Licensing is a positive way and a critical tool that the EPA uses to work actively with industry to safeguard against public and environment harm.
What is a licence?
Certain types of industries and businesses need an EPA licence in order to operate. These range from large cement manufacturers, electricity generators and wastewater treatment plants to foundries, abattoirs and shipyards. A full list of these industries can be found in Schedule 1 of the Environment Protection Act 1993 (EP Act) – ‘prescribed activities of environmental significance’.
A licence aims to control and minimise pollution and waste by setting conditions that the licensee must meet to minimise potential harm to the environment and people who live nearby.
Licence conditions may relate to outcomes (including discharge limits, management plans or environment improvement programs), infrastructure (such as stack heights and bunding) or prohibitions, process or procedural requirements (eg not accepting toxic wastes).
A licence is also a public document, holding the licensee accountable for their environmental performance, both to government and the community.
Even though the legislation covers a range of industries and businesses that require a licence, there are many activities that do not require a licence under the EP Act (eg dry cleaners and petrol stations). Additionally, many activities in the EP Act that do require a licence specify a threshold at or below which a licence is not needed. For example, if you operate a brewery with the capacity to produce 5,000 litres or less of beer per day you will not need an environmental licence. Therefore you will not find information about these businesses on this index.
What is an exemption?
Under certain circumstances an exemption is granted to allow a business to operate outside of the prescribed minimum standards under the Environment Protection Act 1993 and/or environment protection policies.
Examples can include during periods of start up or shut down of large industrial machinery. The EPA may grant an exemption for a set period of time and with special conditions attached so that the business can continue to operate. There will be an expectation by the EPA that the business will consider technologies that are available and applied by their industry to move their operations into compliance or that the exceedences are short lived.
What is a works approval?
Under some circumstances a works approval is granted to allow a business to carry out construction, alteration or installation of a building, structure, plant or equipment to be used for a licensed activity.
A works approval is generally not required if the works have already been subject to the development assessment process under the Development Act 1993. In this circumstance the EPA may already have had the opportunity to provide comment or set conditions through powers conferred under the Development Act.
The works approval application is similar to that of a development application. It consists of an environmental assessment carried out for the EPA prior to considering a licence application.
How does the EPA check that a licensee is compliant with their licence?
The EPA’s regulatory effort is focussed on activities that pose a higher risk of pollution and where compliance with licensing conditions is more critical.
This means the EPA has a targeted program for assessing licence compliance. The EPA works with its regulatory partners and licensees, and uses a range of tools to ensure compliance with licence conditions. Examples include site inspections, industry audits, environmental monitoring and progress reporting requirements.
Where necessary and appropriate, the EPA can set strict compliance limits and monitoring requirements as part of licence conditions. Such conditions require monitoring of emissions to air and/or water at specified monitoring points, which are required to be submited to the EPA. Providing false or misleading information is considered a serious offence and significant penalties apply.
Given the diversity and number of licences that the EPA manages, the frequency of inspections and other compliance programs varies across licences.
The EPA also has in place a number of systems to capture and log environment incidents and complaints associated with licensees. Follow up is undertaken to make sure compliance has been secured and appropriate penalties have been applied.
There is also an onus of responsibility for the licence holder to inform the EPA if an environment incident has occurred on their site. Failure to notify the EPA of such an occurrence is an offence and significant penalties apply.
What does the EPA do if non-compliance is found?
The powers and duties given to the EPA by the environmental legislation it administers are significant. They include a variety of tools to ensure that all reasonable and practicable measures are taken to protect, restore and enhance the quality of the environment. Much is achieved through providing advice and guidance, partnering with other organisations, education and regulation. However, where there is a risk of harm to the environment, the EPA will act quickly and decisively, and take legal action if warranted.
The EPA’s aim is to take a balanced and principled approach to the use of compliance and enforcement tools so that if enforcement powers are necessary, then they are applied in a consistent, fair and effective way.
Intentional or reckless breaches of the Environment Protection Act 1993 are more serious and result in a stronger enforcement approach by the EPA. All breaches however are considered on merit, in accordance with the EPA’s compliance and enforcement policy.
There is further information about the EPA’s compliance and enforcement strategy, and the regulatory options and tools that can be applied to manage non-compliance.
What does the EPA do if a compliance date on a condition is not met?
Failure to meet a compliance date on a licence condition is an example of non-compliance. In determining an appropriate course of action the EPA uses the compliance and enforcement strategy as above and considers a variety of factors including, but not limited to the:
- seriousness of the issue, for example the nature and extent of the impact, harm or potential harm to the environment or the potential to undermine the regulatory regime
- presence of intentional or reckless behaviour
- extent and speed of remediation action required
- compliance history.
Why do some licences have different conditions when the licence holders are conducting similar activities?
The regulated community varies a great deal, importantly in the areas of environmental risk they pose and the quality and attitude of their compliance behaviour. Some operators present minimal environmental risk while others pose a great risk to the community or the natural environment. Given the variance in environmental risk and compliance behaviour, ‘one size fits all’ regulation is not best practice.
The EPA uses a risk-based approach to applying licence conditions. At the most basic level, standard administrative conditions are applied to all licences. Beyond this, the EPA establishes conditions with each licence holder according to factors such as:
- previous compliance history
- new technologies that may have been installed on site that reduce environmental risk
- the location of the activities and proximity to vulnerable receptors such as watercourses or higher density urban living
- age of equipment and infrastructure
- effective implementation of plans and processes in place to best manage environmental risks
- other legislation affecting the site
- specific issues on site requiring action that are identified during compliance inspections, audits or monitoring reports.
How often are EPA licences reviewed?
The EPA reviews licences annually or every five years in most instances, unless urgent circumstances exist that require a licence review earlier than this timeframe. The EPA works with industry and community groups to ensure that licences are structured to manage environmental responsibilities.
Given that there are over 1,500 licences, there are a number of licences that are being renewed at any given time.
The information on the index provides the most up-to-date licences available at the time of upload. These current licences reflect current potential risks associated with the licensed activity(ies). If these risks change, the licence conditions will be revised to reflect any new risk factors or environmental management practices.
Is there the opportunity for community input into licence conditions?
When a company applies for a new licence, or an existing licence holder applies to vary its licence conditions, the EPA will provide the surrounding community with the opportunity to comment.
A public notice will be placed in a newspaper circulating in the affected area, and the EPA will write to the neighbours (owner/occupier) about the application and the type of activity that is being proposed for that location. Members of the public will be given a minimum period of 14 days in which to comment.
Once all comments are received, the EPA provides these to the applicant – with personal details removed – and requires that the applicant responds to the EPA about any issues raised. The EPA then considers both the submissions and the response in any decisions about granting or varying a licence.
In many circumstances, community groups are engaged to work with industry and the EPA to provide input into existing licences. The EPA believes that for an industry to be a good environmental performer, it does not just meet its environmental obligations, but will also consider the impact of its operations on local communities. Licensees are encourage to actively work with the community, particularly in relation to any off-site impacts.
The EPA can also place specific conditions on a licensee to make sure they engage with the community. For example, a licensee may be required to consult with the local community when they are developing an Environmental Improvement Program or EIP.
How is the community informed if there is a change to licence conditions?
The local community is engaged if there is a proposed relaxation of conditions within a licence.
Generally it is deemed a relaxation when licence conditions are made less stringent.
If a case exists for relaxing any or all of the conditions that exist on a licence, the neighbours are advised by mail and invited to comment on the proposed conditions and a public notice is placed in The Advertiser or regional newspaper inviting broader community input.
Where can I find out more about the licensing process?
About licences on the Public Register Directory
What is the purpose of making licences available online?
The EPA is progressively making the environmental information it holds more accessible to the public.
In April 2011, the EPA published an index of notifications relating to actual and potential groundwater contamination as a first step to upload environmental information that is held on the public register. The upload of EPA licences, which forms part of the EPA’s public register, is part of this project.
This will improve accessibility to existing information that is of public relevance and enable South Australians to better understand the licensing conditions that are in place to protect the community and its environment.
Can I gain access to attachments associated with individual licences?
Contact (08) 8204 2004 during business hours or email to discuss the information you are seeking and to make a request through the public register. Attachments to individual licences will not be available for download due to size and complexity, but as part of the public register they are available for viewing and copying. Please note that fees may apply for accessing this information in some situations.
If I have questions about the licences or want access to more information, can I call someone at the EPA?
For more information about licences held on the public register contact (08) 8204 2004 during business hours or email.
How regularly will the licence information on the website be updated?
The information will be updated on a quarterly basis with the date of currency published above the search bar.