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According to the NSW Department of the Environment, about a third of all contaminated sites investigated under the Contaminated Land Management Act 1997 (NSW) are caused by leaks in underground petroleum storage systems (herein “UPSS”). The Protection of the Environment Operations (Underground Petroleum Storage Systems) Regulation 2008 (NSW) creates a preventative scheme through which such damage to the environment may be avoided.[1]

The main statute that governs the protection of the environment from pollution is the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (NSW). Under the legislative scheme established by that Act, it is an offense to pollute the air, water and earth. The regulations therefore create a list of duties, responsibilities and obligations on the part of owners and operators of businesses that may need to use underground petroleum storage tanks. The regulations apply to all underground storage systems which include one or more tanks that are underground either entirely or partly, and any piping that is connected to them. The regulations do not, however apply to vent and vapour recovery piping.

The person responsible for the UPSS is the person who has control of the system and manages it. That person has an obligation to ensure that the provisions of the regulations are complied with. Failure to comply with the provisions can attract severe penalties. If the system is being managed by a body corporate, that body corporate must nominate a representative. In the event that the UPSS has been decommissioned, the person responsible will be the person who managed the system immediately prior to the decommission. The Department can issues notices requiring that certain action be taken in relation to breaches of the regulations. These can include the following:

  • Cleanup Notices; and
  • Prevention Notices.

Responsible persons have ongoing obligations in relation to the UPSS. These include the following broad responsibilities:

  • Environmental Protection Plan;
  • Loss monitoring procedures and loss detection and investigation procedures; and
  • Incident management procedures, including:
    • Incident Notification,
    • System Maintenance, and
    • Record Keeping.

To ensure that all statutory and regulatory requirements are complied with, it is important that responsible persons seek legal advice with respect to the UPSS and the mechanisms and policies in place which deal with the administration, maintenance and control of UPSS.

If any of the matters raised above touch upon a potential legal issue that may involve you and your business, there are a number of pressing legal issues that will need to be considered before anything is done to resolve your matter. Our UPSS lawyers have been assisting individuals and companies in this area of the law for over a decade and we have the expertise and skills required to provide the legal assistance that is needed.

If you would like to discuss any of these matters in further detail, you can contact our head office in Sydney to set a meeting with one of our energy resource or UPSS lawyers by telephone on (02) 9233 4048 or send an email to Usually, we will meet with you in our Sydney CBD office, or we may be able to meet with you in one of our branch offices located across Sydney. To view a complete list of our branch offices, please peruse our "Locations" tab.

[1] Guidelines for Implementing the Protection of the Environment Operations (Underground Petroleum Storage Systems) Regulation 2008 (NSW Department of Environment, May 2009) p 1.

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This webpage (and any material or wording appearing on this webpage) is provided for general information purposes only and does not constitute any Legal Advice. It does not take into account your objectives, your instructions or all of the relevant facts and/or circumstances. Navado accepts no responsibility to any person who relies on the information provided on this website. We further refer you to our Disclaimer.

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