The Brumby Labor Government has significantly strengthened bushfire prevention obligations for electricity businesses under legislative amendments passed in the Upper House in Parliament today.
(Media-Newswire.com) - The Brumby Labor Government has significantly strengthened bushfire prevention obligations for electricity businesses under legislative amendments passed in the Upper House in Parliament today.
Minister for Energy and Resources Peter Batchelor said the Energy and Resources Legislation Amendment Bill 2010 would improve vegetation management around electrical lines, and increase the quality and frequency of electrical line safety auditing. The Bill will also increase penalties for those that don’t comply with the bushfire prevention requirements.
“These comprehensive new laws ensure there is greater accountability for those organisations that operate power lines and other electrical infrastructure that have the potential to start a bushfire,” he said.
“Through the Royal Commission and community consultations we know that electrical line maintenance and vegetation clearance are two areas people want to see improvements and these changes will help achieve that.
“We started work on this legislation following the Bushfires Royal Commission interim report and our early and decisive action on drafting this new legislation has ensured that these legislation changes can be made before the coming bushfire season.”
Mr Batchelor said the Brumby Labor Government was continuing to work through all the recommendations from the Bushfires Royal Commission in relation to electricity assets but these changes were an important first step.
“The Bill provides for trees near power lines to be removed and for restrictions on planting certain types of trees near power lines to be imposed. It also strengthens Energy Safe Victoria’s powers to monitor and enforce compliance with bushfire mitigation obligations,” he said.
“We have also significantly increased the penalties that will apply to electricity asset managers that do not submit a Bushfire Mitigation Plan to ESV and have made it an offence for those who fail to comply with their agreed plan. Plans must be updated and lodged annually.”
Mr Batchelor said amendments were made to this legislation this week to ensure it aligned with the final recommendations in the Bushfire Royal Commission prior to it being debated today.
The final step to have this legislation passed will be for the amendments to the Bill to be passed in the Lower House in the next sitting week of Parliament.
The key amendments to the Energy and Resources Legislation Amendment Bill 2010 include:
• The ability to direct distribution businesses to inspect SWER lines and 22-kilovolt feeders and other related lines at least every three years;
• Stronger obligations on energy distribution businesses to comply with their Bushfire Mitigation Plans and increased penalties for non-compliance;
• Requirements for Municipal Fire Prevention Plans to include procedures for identifying trees that are likely to fall or come in contact with an electric line, and notifying the persons responsible for the line of the existence of those trees;
• Stronger powers for Energy Safe Victoria to direct a person or organisation to prevent an unsafe electrical situation; and
• The ability to set minimum requirements for training and auditing electrical asset inspectors and determine the accreditation requirements for organisations which provide that training.
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