Features of the policy
Videos of the Air Quality Policy information session are now available on the EPA YouTube channel:
- Burning in the open
- Solid fuel heaters
A policy to regulate and manage air quality instead of 4 policies plus 2 guidelines
3 policies and 2 guidelines have been consolidated into 1 policy. The policies are the Environment Protection (Air Quality) Policy 1994, Environment Protection (Burning) Policy 1994, Environment Protection (Solid Fuel Heaters) Policy 2015, and guidelines, Air quality impact assessment using design ground level pollutant concentrations (DGLCs) 2006 and the Odour assessment using odour source modelling 2007.
Environmental criteria from these 2 guidelines are included as Schedules 2 and 3 of the policy and the associated explanatory information has been updated and included in Ambient air quality assessment.
As fuel quality is now fully covered by the Commonwealth’s Fuel Quality Standards Act 2000 and supporting Fuel Standards, the Environment Protection (Motor Vehicle Fuel Quality) Policy 2002 has been revoked to remove duplication in legislation.
A ‘whole-of-air-shed’ approach to managing specific areas of concern and set air quality objectives
A number of factors determine the risk to communities from exposure to air pollution, including the amount of pollutants emitted, the emission sources, weather, topography, natural events and the size of the air shed (a geographical area where local topography and meteorology limit the dispersion of pollutants away from the area).
The EPA is now able to declare that localised air quality objectives apply for a specific area. A person carrying on an activity in such an area must comply with any measures specified in the declaration. This may include complying with emission concentrations for particular pollutants, or any other appropriate measures.
Solid fuel heaters sold and installed must comply with Australian Standards (AS/NZS 4012, 4013 and 2918)
Compliant solid fuel heaters that are installed correctly produce less emissions, and are more efficient. The requirement that only compliant solid fuel heaters can be sold in South Australia brings us into line with other jurisdictions and ensures that the market is not subverted by cheap, non-compliant imports that have the potential to further degrade air quality.
Sale prohibited of green firewood with moisture content exceeding 25% dry weight
A maximum moisture content of 25% dry weight is generally accepted as the highest moisture content before wood begins to burn inefficiently. Fuel with a moisture content greater than 25% dry weight has substantially higher emissions (such as increased PM2.5 particle pollution) contributing to impacts on human health and the environment.
Particulate matter is associated with human health impacts especially respiratory and cardiovascular effects. Excessive smoke can also be a significant nuisance problem for neighbours, affecting both their health and amenity, as emissions can be highly odorous and irritating.
Requirement to operate solid fuel heater correctly and prevent excessive smoke
People are required to limit the impacts of excessive wood smoke from their solid fuel heaters. A simple test is provided for determining what constitutes ‘excessive smoke’ within the context of an ‘environmental nuisance’ under the Environment Protection Act 1993.
Burning in the open regulation is targeted at built-up, populated areas
The Burning Policy prohibited burning in the open in prescribed areas (eg the Adelaide metropolitan area), but left burning in remaining areas either partly or largely unregulated. This policy has been amalgamated and the scope extended to ensure equivalent air quality standards for all built-up areas.
The Air Quality Policy provides controls on burning in the open to limit impacts of smoke on human health and amenity in built-up, populated areas and provides councils with the ability to better manage burning by tailoring it to the needs of the community and circumstances. There are different management requirements for burning in the open which depend on the type of burning activity and where burning occurs.
Ability to take a risk-based approach
The EPA has the ability to take a risk-based approach in regulating and managing the impacts of activities on air quality. Clause 18 of the policy sets out the range of information and criteria that the EPA must take into account when considering an application for an environmental authorisation or development authorisation.
The EPA must take into account Evaluation distances for effective air quality and noise management 2016 which provides recommendations on evaluation distances. In general, where evaluation distance requirements are met (for activities of typical scale and technology) the level of risk is considered acceptable, however within these distances a risk assessment is required.
Ground level concentrations (GLCs) and odour levels are the primary drivers for assessing risk and where necessary setting in-stack concentrations tailored to the particular activity. These criteria were previously contained in EPA guidelines and are now incorporated into Schedules 2 and 3 of the policy respectively.
Where it is not reasonably practicable or feasible to assess ground level impacts against GLCs and/or odour criteria the Authority must take into account stack emissions criteria set out under Schedule 4 of the policy.
Guidance on how to evaluate emissions and their impacts are provided in Ambient air quality assessment and Emissions testing methodology for air pollution prescribed within the policy. The EPA must also take into account localised air quality objectives (if any), any other kinds of air pollution, and the conditions required to minimise the impacts of emissions.
Other factors the Authority may take into account when assessing the level of risk include complaints history, health indicators (if available), economic and business viability and impacts on other environmental media.