Jurisdiction - Australia
Australia – Proposed Variation Of National Environment Protection (Ambient Air Quality) Measure.

14 September, 2014


Legal News & Analysis – Asia Pacific – Australia – Environment 


Release of draft variation of Ambient Air Quality NEPM in relation to standards for particles



  • The National Environment Protection Council has released a Draft Variation to the Ambient Air Quality NEPM together with an Impact Statement.
  • The Draft Variation proposes more stringent standards for particles with an aerodynamic diameter of less than 10 micrometres (μm, known as PM10) and 2.5 micrometres (μm, known as PM2.5).




  • Interested parties are encouraged to read the Draft Variation to the Ambient Air Quality NEPM and the Impact Statement.
  • Consider the technical implications for your operations and make a submission to the National Environment Protection Council before 10 October 2014.


Draft Variation To The Ambient Air Quality NEPM

The National Environment Protection Council (NEPC) released a Draft Variation to the Ambient Air Quality NEPM (Draft NEPM) together with an Impact Statement in July 2014. The Draft NEPM proposes more stringent standards for particles with an aerodynamic diameter of less than 10 micrometres and 2.5 micrometres.

The Ambient Air Quality NEPM (AAQ NEPM) requires monitoring and reporting on six pollutants – carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, petrochemical oxidants (ozone), sulphur dioxide and particulate matter (PM) (with current reporting standards for PM2.5 only).

The Draft NEPM proposes requiring States and Territories to:


  • establish monitoring and assessment of particles as PM2.5 and PM10;
  • achieve the specified national environment protection standards for particles within a 10 year period; and
  • evaluate and report population weighted exposure to particles as PM2.5 for regions with populations greater than 1 million.


A copy of the Draft NEPM and Impact Statement can be found here.

Proposed New Numerical Values For PM Standards


The Draft NEPM proposes the following numerical values for PM standards:


  • a maximum concentration of 40-50μg/m3 for particles as PM10 for the 24 hour mean (only to be exceeded 5 days a year);
  • a maximum concentration of 20 μg/m3 for the annual mean (no exceedances allowable);
  • a maximum concentration of 25 μg/m3 for the 24 hour mean (only to be exceeded 5 days a year); and
  • a maximum concentration of 8 μg/m3 for the annual mean (no exceedances allowable).


These numerical values are to be finalised following the consultation process.


What Is Particulate Air Pollution?

Airborne particulate matter is a complex mixture of extremely small particles and liquid droplets from a range of sources and processes. It includes particles emitted from direct sources such as construction sites, smokestacks, and diesel combustion, and particles formed through atmospheric reactions.


The size of particles is directly linked to their potential for causing health problems. Particles that are less than 10 micrometers in diameter or smaller generally pass through the throat and nose and enter the lungs.


Airborne particles are commonly measured using the PM10 and PM2.5 metrics.

What Are The Health Effects Of Particulate Matter?


The health effects of PM have become better understood in the last decade. These health effects
can include premature mortality, aggravation of cardiovascular disease and aggravation of respiratory disease.

In 2012 and 2013 the International Agency for Research on Cancer (which is part of the World Health Organisation) classified outdoor air pollution as carcinogenic to humans, with an emphasis on PM and diesel particulate matter.

Options In The Impact Statement


The Impact Statement discusses the following main options for improving the Australian air quality
management framework and better managing particulate matter:


  • variation of the AAQ NEPM;
  • Commonwealth legislation;
  • voluntary guidelines;
  • an intergovernmental agreement; or
  • no change to the current framework.

The Impact Statement identifies a variation to the AAQ NEPM as the preferred option. It considers that a varied AAQ NEPM is the most effective way to ensure consistency in national air quality management and data collection, with states and territories using and integrating the AAQ NEPM into their own environmental protection laws.


Implications For Industry


Industries that involve processes which produce particulate matter may be affected by the introduction of the more stringent standards in the Draft NEPM.

The adoption of the Draft NEPM may have cost implications for industrial facilities with particulate
matter air emissions. In time these standards may lead to more stringent environmental licence
conditions, which may require capital improvements and process improvements to address such conditions.


Consultation Process


The NEPC consultation period for the Draft NEPM and options outlined in the Impact Statement closes on Friday 10 October 2014.

The NEPC is seeking input on issues including:


  • whether parties agree with the introduction of an annual PM10 standard;
  • the numerical values for the new 24 hour and annual PM2.5 and PM10 standards; and
  • the form of those standards.

Information sessions are being held in most States and Territories, see your EPA website for details.


Submissions can be made online at www.nepc.gov.au.


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For further information, please contact:


Robert Jamieson, Partner, Ashurst
[email protected]

Ashurst Environment Practice Profile in Australia 

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