SA government to license servos in fight against contamination?

The SA government has just passed legislation to allow the SA Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to introduce a licence fee for service stations.

According to ACAPMA, the SA government wants to raise a total of $1.5 million per year to “support ongoing enforcement activities targeting contaminated sites within the service station industry”.

Seeking feedback

Last week, ACAPMA attended a meeting with the SA EPA, together with other industry stakeholders.

According to ACAPMA, “the purpose of the meeting was to seek feedback on the structure of the proposed licence fee. And to foreshadow a proposal to introduce associated licence conditions that would require service stations to manage their sites within a UPSS ‘Code of Practice’”.

ACAPMA CEO Mark McKenzie added: “While the legislation for the licence fee raising had been passed without industry consultation, the SA EPA stressed that they were keen to consult with the industry around both the structure of the fee and any likely licence conditions, in advance of the January 1, 2020 commencement.”

Flat fee or tiered?

Discussions of the fee centred around whether it would be flat or tiered. In other words, would it be the same fee for all service stations? Or would it take into account the size of the site in market terms?

If flat, ACAPMA estimates the yearly fee to be about $2,400 per site per year.

“The licence cost is likely to be relatively modest,” Mr McKenzie said. “But our concern is to ensure that the SA EPA does not introduce licence conditions for UPSS management that dramatically increase the cost of doing business and/or create unnecessary complexity for both regulators and industry – as has occurred in NSW.

“To date, there are two examples of government working with our industry for the prevention of contamination of soil and groundwater at service stations. And ACAPMA’s clear preference is the approach that has been used in Victoria over the past four years.”

Preventing contamination

Mr McKenzie says he accepts the need to prevent contamination, as long as it’s both fair and effective.

“Our industry has an absolute obligation to ensure we take all reasonable steps to prevent contamination of soil and groundwater at and around our fuel retail sites,” he said.

“It is important, however, that actions targeting this obligation are as cost-effective as possible. (They must not) result in onerous and unworkable legislation that simply fills government coffers without delivering positive environmental outcomes.”

ACAPMA says the SA EPA is currently preparing a mailout to all service stations in the state. This will advise them of the proposed licence fee and the industry consultation that will take place over coming months.

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