18 June, 2012

Environmental Approvals, Marine Parks, Orica, Grants, Flood Inquiry

Environmental Approval
Just a week after a dispute between Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney and Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke, over the Alpha Coal project, they have now agreed to significant changes to the existing bilateral agreement for environmental approvals for major projects.

The changes are a major step forward and introduce project management approaches to the process.
They also give greater clarity and transparency about the respective roles of the Qld and Commonwealth Governments and impose timeframes on both for consultation and responses through the approvals process.

The new bilateral includes the setting of defined milestones and timeframes for providing documents, feedback and approvals, including the signing-off on Terms of Reference and key assessment reports.
Qld’s Deputy Premier and Minister for State Development, Infrastructure and Planning Jeff Seeney said the new bilateral agreement would eliminate duplication in the environmental approval process which in the past had bogged down some projects for years.

“The changes negotiated between the State and Commonwealth will also provide certainty to project proponents around the length of time of the approval process,” Mr Seeney said.
Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection, Andrew Powell, said the signing is a positive outcome for Qld and consistent with the LNP’s election commitment to reduce greentape.
Mr Powell said the Commonwealth and Qld Governments were committed to maintaining the highest environmental standards while at the same time streamlining the environmental assessment and approval process.

The Qld Conservation Council is not convinced.

Marine Parks
The Federal Government is moving to create the world's largest network of marine parks protecting waters covering an area as big as India. The plan includes limits on oil and gas exploration and extends reef protection in the Coral Sea.

While it's being hailed as one of the biggest conservation moves in the nation's history, commercial fishermen say it'll drive them out of business and the compensation bill could run to hundreds of millions of dollars.

Orica faces prosecution
Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP) Andrew Powell has confirmed that his department has commenced a prosecution against chemical manufacturer Orica Australia Pty Ltd.
Orica has been charged with 279 offences of wilfully contravening a condition of a development approval during operation of its facility at Yarwun outside Gladstone.

On 3 May 2012, the EHP obtained a court order from the Planning and Environment Court requiring Orica to undertake an independent audit of the plant and its procedures. Last week the EHP formally commenced a prosecution in the Gladstone Magistrates Court.
Orica has been charged with contravention of section 435(1) of the Environmental Protection Act 1994. The alleged offending conduct includes:
Releasing contaminants in excess of licence limits;
Failing to notify the department upon becoming aware of contraventions; and
Failing to test for contaminants prior to releasing effluent.

Orica acknowledges that complaints have been issued by the EHP against them and the Company intends to defend the complaints. Orica believes that there has been no environmental harm or risk to human health from these alleged complaints.

ASBG will be presenting material on how to stay out of trouble with EHP in the upcoming Equip Series: Environmental Management Workshop on the19 July 2012 in Brisbane.

Environment Grants
Recently Premier Newman launched the QLD government’s $12m Everyone’s Environment grants program. Everyone’s Environment program was an election commitment and will support community groups, environment groups and larger environmental organisations who want to take action to improve their local environment.

The grants program is about investing in practical local initiatives that protect our environment for all Queenslanders to enjoy into the future. The three-year Everyone’s Environment program will provide grants ranging between $2,000 and $100,000 for a wide range of local environmental initiatives including tree-planting and land restoration, community and waterway clean-ups, run-off reduction and water quality improvement, enhancement of natural beauty of local communities, and monitoring pollutants in streams. The grants are available from 1 July, 2012.

Implementing Flood Inquiry
In the last sitting of Parliament the Qld Government delivered its formal response to the final report from the Qld Floods Commission of Inquiry. The Commission report was made public on 16 March 2012 and contained 177 recommendations across a broad range of areas. The State Government will fully implement everything which it is responsible for and work in co-operation with local councils to deliver improved flood outcomes across the state.
Professor Jim McGowan has labeled the inquiry as "a missed opportunity" to address an imbalance in the allocation of resources through the Natural Relief and Recovery Arrangements.

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