On 3 September 2015

Environmental Protection Measures

There are four main National Environment Protection Measures (NEPMs) that relate to air quality:

  • Ambient Air Quality
  • Ambient Air Toxics
  • Diesel Emissions
  • National Pollutant Inventory

Ambient Air Quality

In June 1998 governments agreed to set uniform standards for ambient air quality setting out standards for air quality for various substances (carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, photochemical oxidants, lead, sulfur dioxide and inhalable particles (PM10)). The NEPM has since been varied to also include an advisory standard for respirable particles (PM2.5).

The main aim of the Ambient Air NEPM (as set out in the NEPM) is to protect human health and wellbeing.

For the year 2004-05, the Environment Protection and Heritage Council reported that most jurisdictions have incorporated the NEPM into their legislative frameworks and that monitoring results indicate that, in most cases, the NEPM standards are being met. However, in some cases the NEPM standards have been exceeded and that this has usually been as a result of bushfires, dust storms, the impact of vehicle use associated with urban expansion and localised industrial sources (NEPC Report in the Implementation of the Ambient Air Quality NEPM 2004-05).

Ambient Air Toxics

In April 2004 governments agreed to a framework for monitoring, assessing and reporting on ambient levels of five air toxics (benzene, formaldehyde, toluene, xylene and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)). This will assist in the collection of information for the future development of national air quality standards for these pollutants.

The NEPM requires that monitoring for these five air toxics be undertaken at locations where significantly elevated levels are likely to occur and where there is likelihood of significant population exposure. States and Territories are currently in the process of identifying locations for monitoring sites and undertaking preliminary monitoring. States and Territories are required to report annually on progress.

Diesel emissions

Motor vehicles, particularly those with diesel engines, are significantly disproportionate contributors of fine particle pollution and oxides of nitrogen. In June 2001 governments agreed to reduce exhaust emissions from diesel vehicles, by facilitating compliance with in-service emissions standards for diesel vehicles.

The NEPM includes strategies for jurisdictions to ensure that in-service diesel vehicles are adequately maintained. The NEPM provides guidance for developing:

  • inspection and maintenance programs
  • fleet maintenance programs
  • smoky vehicle programs
  • retrofit programs (eg fitting catalysts to diesel vehicles) and
  • engine re-build programs

For the year 2004-05, the Environment Protection and Heritage Council reported that some jurisdictions are integrating the Diesel Vehicle Emissions NEPM with activities that also aim to meet their Ambient Air Quality NEPM requirements and that some jurisdictions continue to revise their air emissions inventories to understand better the impacts of diesel vehicle emissions. Jurisdictions also continue to implement the NEPM through their Smoky Vehicle Programs (NEPC Report on the Implementation of the Diesel Vehicle Emissions NEPM, 2004-05).

It also noted that the Fuel Quality Standards Act 2000 (Commonwealth) sets a national fuel quality standard for diesel (refer indicator Implementation of national fuel quality standards).

National Pollutant Inventory

In February 1998 governments agreed to establish a national web database that provides publicly available information about pollutant sources and emissions to air, land and water in Australia. The National Pollutant Inventory (NPI) includes pollutant information on emissions from industry facilities, and aggregated emissions from diffuse sources such as domestic households and motor vehicles.

The number of facilities reporting has risen from 3629 in 2004 to 3713 in 2005. Facilities reported on 85 of the 90 NPI substances ( Data for the period 1999 to 2004 shows a significant increase in the facilities reporting within most jurisdictions.

In 2005, an independent review of the NPI was conducted which identified some priority areas including:

  • improvements in the database system would facilitate greater and easier access to data
  • resource material for industry and jurisdiction that would lead to greater consistency and higher data quality
  • data quality assurance programs that, with improvements, would increase confidence in the data
  • changes to NEPM parameters, such as transfers and greenhouse gases, that would make NPI more relevant

It is anticipated that a variation to the NEPM will be initiated to address the priority areas identified (NEPC Report on the Implementation of the National Pollutant Inventory NEPM, 2004-05).

NPI facility reports received by jurisdictions, 1999 - 2004

NPI facility reports received by jurisdictions, 1999 - 2004

Source: NEPC Report on the Implementation of the National Pollutant Inventory NEPM, 2004-05

The anecdotal evaluation of these NEPMs show that NEPMs can be an effective way of addressing environmental issues especially through encouraging cross-jurisdictional cooperation. There has been good progress in implementing actions under the NEPMs but further action is still needed such as addressing exceedences under the Ambient Air Quality NEPM.

Nil known

Atmosphere — Air quality - Air quality - pressures and responses

National Environment Protection Measures (NEPMs) are broad framework-setting statutory instruments similar to environmental protection policies. Subject to agreement by the Commonwealth, state and territories governments, they outline agreed national objectives and actions for protecting or managing particular aspects of the environment. More details on NEPMs can be obtained from www.ephc.gov.au.

An indicator on the implementation and effectiveness of NEPMs is included as an indicator of governments’ responses to air quality issues.

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