Spotlight on the EPBC Act

Late-2013 saw plenty of activity around environmental assessment under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act 1999 (Cth) (EPBC Act).
On 16 October 2013, the Minister for the Environment announced a three-step framework for the implementation of the Federal Government’s ‘one-stop-shop’ policy. Meanwhile, on 20 December 2013, the Department of the Environment released new Significant Impact Guidelines, relating to the recently introduced ‘water trigger’ amendments.
These new developments are most relevant to proponents of developments requiring both State and Commonwealth environmental assessment and approval in Australia. In particular, the new Guidelines will be relevant for proponents of Coal Seam Gas (CSG) developments or large coal mining developments.

This alertprovides an overview of the EPBC Act.

Productivity Commission announces inquiry into mineral and energy resource exploration

The Productivity Commission (Commission) has announced a 12 month inquiry into the non financial barriers to mineral and energy resource exploration. The inquiry was established on the recommendation of the Policy Transition Group, which noted that ‘a range of approvals are required before exploration can begin, including land access, native title, indigenous and non-indigenous heritage, environmental, conservation estate and planning and infrastructure approvals.’
The review will investigate areas of duplication across different levels of government and examine exploration approvals and processes to assess their effectiveness and efficiency. The Commission will determine if there is evidence of unnecessary regulatory burden, examine complexity and time frames of government approvals and examine costs of non-financial barriers (including regulatory and related costs).
The review excludes taxation and fiscal policy across all levels of government, the government’s response to the review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth), and indigenous land rights regimes.
Initial submissions are due by the end of March 2013, with a final report to government by the end of September 2013.