By Gail Owen, Partner
In May this year the Queensland Government introduced the Environmental Protection (Greentape Reduction) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2012 (the Bill).
The Bill is the culmination of the Greentape Reduction Project
commenced in 2010 and set up by the Queensland Government to
investigate government, community and corporate concerns about the
unduly complex regulatory process that has developed over time
under the Environmental Protection Act 1994.
The Explanatory Notes to the Bill state that the objectives of the Bill are to simplify and improve the licensing processes under the Environmental Protection Act 1994 to:
- introduce a licensing model proportionate to environmental risk;
- introduce flexible operational approvals;
- streamline the approvals process for mining and petroleum;
- streamline and clarify information requirements; and
- achieve the above whilst maintaining environmental outcomes. 1
The Bill will impact how you apply for and manage environmental authorities for petroleum activities. To assist in considering how the Bill will affect your business we have highlighted the major changes and how they could affect you.
What are the changes?
The Bill will replace existing Chapters 4, 5, 5A and 6 of the Environmental Protection Act 1994 to create a single approval process for environmental authorities under a new Chapter 5, Environmental authorities for environmentally relevant activities (Chapter 5).
Chapter 5 defines the key resource activities for environmentally relevant activities as a geothermal activity, a GHG storage activity, a mining activity or a petroleum activity. It will implement a single approval process for all environmental authorities including mining and petroleum (with the exception of agricultural ERA's in the Great Barrier Reef). 2
The approval process follows the process adopted under Chapter 6 of the Sustainable Planning Act 2009 known as the IDAS process. The stages are the application, information, notification and decision stage. However, the Bill, through complementary amendments to the Sustainable Planning Act 2009, will utilise environmental authorities as the means for regulating all ERA's.
- Proportionate licensing model – the Bill introduces a new licensing model by introducing three new application types. The new applications are based on the risk posed to the environment by the particular environmentally relevant activity. The types of applications are:
- standard application – applies if the environmental authority is to be subject to the standard conditions for the authority or the environmentally relevant activity for the authority and all proposed environmentally relevant activities are eligible ERA's;
- variation application – seeks to change the standard conditions; and
- site-specific application – applies
if any of the proposed environmentally relevant activities for the
authority are ineligible ERA's.
(NOTE: For a resource activity the eligibility criteria is the criteria prescribed under a regulation or made by the chief executive under section 318).
- Amalgamated corporate authority – the Bill introduces a new authority that allows the holder of multiple environmental authorities to amalgamate them into a single authority. The process allows for a single set of administrative conditions for all sites, a single reporting date and a uniform date for annual payments.
- Flexible operational approvals – the Bill proposes to use environmental authorities as the principle means for regulating all ERA's. Rather than holding a development permit and an environmental authority to regulate different aspects of activities being conducted on land by an operator the environmental authority will allow for single project approvals for resources activities.
- Suitable operator register – the Bill will amend the existing transfer provisions by introducing provisions that will make transfers of environmental authorities automatic between "suitable operators". Current environmental authority holders will be automatically included on a register of suitable operators and anyone not holding a current environmental authority will be able to apply. This move is intended to reduce processing time in transferring environmental authorities.
The Bill is scheduled for commencement in March 2013. In the meantime the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection is planning for training to commence in early 2013.
To assist you in preparing for the implementation of the Bill and to consider all of the implications of the proposed greentape reduction improvements we invite you to contact Andrew Bruton to arrange a more comprehensive in-house seminar to help focus on the impacts for your business.
1 Explanatory Notes, page 1.
2 Explanatory Notes, page 2.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.