17 December, 2013

Greentape Reform

Greentape Reduction Reform

On 6 December 2013 amendments were made to the Environmental Protection Regulation 2008 as part of so-called Greentape Reduction reforms. Amendments include standard conditions for different prescribed environmentally relevant activities (ERAs) and prescribing conditions for small scale mining activities.

Standard Conditions

The Environmental Protection Regulation 2008 has made eligibility criteria and standard conditions for the following eligible ERAs.
·         ERA 13(2) - Retreading tyres

Operators who are able to meet the eligibility criteria can now make a standard application for an environmental authority. If an operator needs to vary one or more of the standard conditions they may do so by making a variation application. Use the online tool to identify the correct application type for your project.

Small scale mining reforms

Small scale mining activities include:
·         a mining claim for 20 hectares or less for opals, gemstones and other precious stones,
·         an exploration permit (minerals) for 4 sub-blocks or less for minerals other than coal.

These activities were deregulated by the Mining and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2013 (MOLA Act) in March 2013.

This change to Qld’s environmental regulation means that small scale mining operators no longer need to apply for an environmental authority.

To support the reforms and ensure environmental standards are maintained, prescribed conditions relating to rehabilitation and financial assurance have been included in Environmental Protection Regulation 2008. The regulation also includes a list of designated environmental areas which are derived from ‘category C environmentally sensitive areas’ and supports the definition of small scale mining activity in the dictionary of the Environmental Protection Act 1994.

Other Changes to ERA regulation

From 2 January 2014 changes to the Environmental Protection Regulation 2008 will remove the devolution of administration and enforcement responsibilities in relation to particular ERAs from the State to certain local governments. A number of local governments that administered 10 or less licenced sites in their local area following the deletion of several ERAs earlier this year elected to have the administration and enforcement of these remaining ERAs returned to the State. A total of 17 local governments listed in Schedule 8A of the regulation no longer have devolved responsibilities, with 20 licences being transferred to the State.

The regulation also prescribes a fee of $2,200 for applications for a Temporary Emissions Licence.

One Stop Shop

Qld is finalising a new agreement on environmental assessments with the Commonwealth Government.  The agreement enables the establishment of a single assessment process that incorporates state and federal requirements to ensure proponents meet the national environmental standards.

The Federal Government will retain control over decisions involving offshore Commonwealth waters, nuclear actions and projects for which state governments are “likely to have a significant conflict of interest” as the proponent. The Qld Government will be able to seek input and advice on assessments from Commonwealth organisations such as the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority  or the Supervising Scientist in relation to uranium mining and exploration.

Premier’s Sustainability Awards

Nominations are open for the 2014 Premier’s Sustainability Awards which recognise the achievements of Qlders who are developing or adopting sustainable practices.

Nominations close on Friday 14 March 2014. Finalists and winners of the 2014 Premier’s Sustainability Awards will be announced at a presentation dinner at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre on Friday 30 May 2014.  More information about the awards and an online application form can be found at www.ehp.qld.gov.au/premiersawards

01 December, 2013

Kagara Copper fined $120,000

Media Statements

Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection
The Honourable Andrew Powell

Friday, November 22, 2013

High penalties for failing to meet environmental standards

Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection Andrew Powell urged the resources industry to ensure any water releases comply with environmental standards ahead of the traditional ‘wet season’.
The call comes after former operator of Baal Gammon copper mine, Kagara, pleaded guilty to three charges yesterday relating to the unauthorised release of contaminated water into Jamie Creek and the Walsh River west of Herberton during the 2011/12 wet season.
“The resources industry as a whole has done a significant amount of work in relation to water management and we are seeing improvements,” Mr Powell said.
“For example, in 2010 - 2011, under the former Labor Government, the former DERM investigated 56 breaches of environmental authorities by 22 coal mines in the Fitzroy Basin. 
“By comparison, there were 25 non-compliant mine water releases from 12 mines during the 2012-2013 wet season.    
However, Mr Powell warned that any company which fails to meet high environmental standards will face severe penalties.
“The unauthorised release of mine affected or contaminated water into creeks and streams is a serious offence,” he said.
Kagara was yesterday fined $120,000 contravening an environmental protection order, unlawfully causing material environmental harm, and breaching a condition of the mine’s Environmental Authority.
In September 2013, the owner of the mine, Baal Gammon Copper Pty Ltd, was fined $80,000 in relation to the discharges.
“These matters resulted from an investigation which was initiated in early March 2012 after Kagara notified the Department that the mine experienced a release of suspected contaminated water into a nearby creek,” Mr Powell said.
“High concentrations of heavy metals, including copper, cadmium and arsenic were identified in Jamie Creek and Walsh River.
“This posed a potential risk to people living near the Baal Gammon copper mine.
 “Residents where advised not to drink water from the Walsh River at the time following the releases.
 “The Newman Government takes non-compliance with conditions of environmental authorities very seriously even if the company is in receivership,” Mr Powell said.
“Authority holders are responsible for their mine even when another company, acting under the environment authority, manages the day to day operations at the site.
“This government has made sure the owner of the Baal Gammon mine has been held to account over mine water contamination in far north Queensland, and we will not hesitate to pursue any company who fails to meet our high environmental standards during this coming wet season.”
[ENDS] 22 November 2013

Media contact: Brooke Hargraves 0458 689 043

Vegetation Management in Qld

A number of changes have occurred to Queensland’s vegetation management laws. These include:
  • the creation of self-assessable clearing codes for certain clearing activities
  • the removal of high-value regrowth regulations from freehold and Indigenous land
  • new clearing purposes for high-value agriculture, irrigated high value agriculture, and environmental clearing
  • simplified mapping
  • compliance and enforcement amendments.
Vegetation mapping has also been simplified through the creation of a state-wide regulated vegetation ‘base’ map, which clearly shows the areas of vegetation on their property that are assessable and non-assessable under the new vegetation laws.

There are other minor amendments that have been undertaken to streamline the vegetation management framework.
Several new exemptions are being introduced, while some exemptions are being broadened, or being made more consistent across different land tenures. New exemptions are being provided for the following:
  • community infrastructure as defined under the Sustainable Planning Act 2009.
  • geotechnical works and land survey works. Geotechnical works can often be a requirement in the off-lease area of resources developments
  • natural disaster events to allow clearing in response to events such as cyclones and floods, to protect human life and prevent injury, and to minimise damage to property and the environment.
The Vegetation Management Framework Amendment Act 2013 does not actually contain details of these reforms. They will require amendments to the Sustainable Planning Regulation 2009, which will occur through a separate process.
Vegetation management reforms will come into effect on 2 December 2013.

The Qld Government has also established a Protected Plants Legislation Review.

They are reviewing the legislation that manages the harvesting and clearing of Queensland’s native plants under the Nature Conservation Act 1992.

The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection is inviting submissions for the final round of consultation for the protected plants legislative review.

The first stage of the review was completed with the Nature Conservation (Protected Plants) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2013 being passed on 16 October 2013; creating the legislative framework in the Nature Conservation Act 1992 that will now guide the clearing, harvest and trade of protected native plants in Queensland. The amendments to the Nature Conservation Act require supporting regulations and statutory instruments such as a code of practice for the taking and using of protected plants. These regulatory amendments and new statutory instruments have now been drafted for public comment.
Should you wish to comment on these amendments and the associated reforms, a copy of the amendments and the associated reforms can be obtained from the department’s website www.ehp.qld.gov.au or by emailing plants.policy@ehp.qld.gov.auSubmissions due by 9am, 16 December 2013.

26 November, 2013

Water Supply Level of Service Objectives

Water Supply Level of Service Objectives

A review is being undertaken of SEQ’s primary ‘water security’ planning framework, the level of service (LOS) objectives to allow planning for operation of the bulk water supply system and future upgrades.

The review of the LOS objectives is being undertaken by the Qld Government’s Department of Energy and Water Supply.

According to the previous SEQ Water Strategy 2010

“Benefits of diversification - A dam operated in conjunction with a desalination facility or purified recycled water scheme has the potential to yield a greater supply than the same dam operated in isolation. Desalination facilities and purified recycled water schemes can deliver these benefits as standby facilities— increasing the amount that can be taken from dams when storage levels are high. This mode of operation reduces operating costs and energy consumption.”

The Qld Government’s new 30 year water strategy is being developed in two phases.

Phase 1 was the release of the Queensland's water sector: a 30-year strategy - discussion paper in December 2012 for a three-month public consultation period (now closed).

Phase 2 is the development of the strategy itself.

Climate resistant water sources are important for our economy.  Business can be confident that they will have the necessary water to operate. The community can have confidence that government is planning for potential and highly likely future scenarios where water supply from traditional sources might be less reliable. Water security is about ensuring that there is adequate water supply to meet the needs of the South East Qld (SEQ) community over the long term, including during drought.

In response to Millennium Drought, the SEQ Water Grid was set up in 2007. The $9 billion network carries harvested and manufactured water to 2.6 million people across 21 000 square kilometres. Its treatment facilities and two-way pipes are intended to guarantee water supply security, regardless of climate change and population growth.

Currently costing $76 million a month, the grid operates bulk water infrastructure assets, such as dams, weirs, water treatment plants, and pipelines. It also includes the Gold Coast Desalination Plant (GCDP) and the Western Corridor Recycled Water Scheme (WCRWS), termed the climate resilient or manufactured water assets.

Planning for bulk water supplies in South East Qld is the responsibility of a statutory authority, Seqwater. The review will be undertaken in consultation with Seqwater and the water service providers. It will inform the Qld Government who will then set the new desired LOS objectives.

The supply of water is capital intensive, requiring significant investment in strategic infrastructure. According to a Qld Audit Office report the combined replacement cost of the grid assets at 30 June 2012 was $6.342 billion and their carrying values were $5.498 billion. A further $2.640 billion in value of assets was transferred to Seqwater on 1 January 2013.

The decision to develop the manufactured water assets was an appropriate response to the severe drought circumstances at the time, and they have provided water security.

However, the Qld Audit Office believes the cost-efficiency of these assets cannot be demonstrated, due to limited comparative benchmarking data and inconsistent operation of the plants in any one mode for a sustained period of time. 

At present, the LOS objectives for South East Qld are outlined in the South East Qld System Operating Plan.
The current LOS objectives state, that the South East Qld bulk water supply system must be able to provide an average urban water allowance of 375 litres per person per day (this includes residential and non-residential demand and system losses) during non-drought times.

This allowance has been in place since 5 March 2010. However, current data on actual water use in South East Queensland shows that average daily demands have been substantially less than this allowance in recent years.

The desired LOS provides users with an indication of what water restrictions may be imposed during droughts and how long restrictions might last for. LOS also outlines other security measures necessary to ensure continuity of essential supplies during drought.

A discussion paper  provides information on water security planning in SEQ, the process of the LOS review and the proposed changes.

The paper seems to focus on issues of quantity and does not address water quality, water reuse or integrated water management.

Department of Energy and Water Supply is seeking feedback. They are particularly seeking feedback about the potential of having more severe water and more frequent water restrictions during drought vs further expenditure on drought response infrastructure.

An additional paper (a consultation regulatory impact statement) will be made available in the coming weeks to provide supplementary information about the considerations made in developing the proposal for the revised LOS objectives.

Comments can be made on the proposed changes to the water security framework until 31 December 2013. The Department of Energy and Water Supply will then consider the submissions made and assess potential implications such as cost, before prescribing the new LOS in mid-2014.

21 November, 2013


In 2011, the former Qld Labor  Government announced a timetable to phase out sand mining on Stradbroke Island with a view to boosting the national park area on the Island to 80% by 2027. 

The former Government believed North Straddie has enormous potential to grow a thriving, eco-tourism industry. It legislated to ensure a phasing out of mining by 2027. A joint management process for land use was proposed with the Traditional Owners - the Quandamooka people.

The current LNP has extended North Stradbroke Island sand mining until 2035, passing the North Stradbroke Island Protection and Sustainability Amendment Bill 2013 through the Queensland Parliament.
The Bill will also amend the Vegetation Management Framework Amendment Act 2013 (VMFAA) to remove the requirement for an applicant for vegetation clearing to provide a significant beneficial impact (SBI) to demonstrate how the applicant will minimise and mitigate the effects of the proposed clearing.

15 November, 2013

more on the Emissions Reduction Fund

If one concedes that the price on carbon will be removed in favour of the new Australian Government's Direct Action Plan, one has to wonder how it will work and how Australia will reduce carbon emissions.
The Australian Government's Emissions Reduction Fund is proposed to commence operations on 1 July 2014. The fund will apparently be designed to purchase low cost abatement.
I have been thinking about some of the activities which may receive incentives for abatement activities including:
•           re-vegetation and land management
•           soil carbon
•           forestry
•           energy efficiency
•           recycling
•           cleaning up power stations
•           cleaning up waste coal mine gas
•           cleaning up landfill

I wonder where one draws the line between providing incentives to activities where there are already economic, social, moral, legislative or environmental drivers in place.

I also have concerns and reservations on how reliable or verifiable soil carbon is as an abatement activity.  

The wonder if the Direct Action Plan will contain any mechanisms for tying abatement to international development assistance.  

The Government invites public comment on Terms of Reference on the design of the Emissions Reduction Fund. Submissions are required by 5pm (AEDT) Monday 18 November 2013.

Cleaner Environment Plan

The Australian Government's new Cleaner Environment Plan forms an umbrella policy framework for a four pillar approach to National Environmental Management.

·       Clean Air,
·       Clean Water,
·       Clean Land,
·       National Heritage

Clean Air outlines the Australian Government’s aspirations to reach its emissions reduction target (of 5% of Y2000 levels by Y2020) through the Direct Action Plan. 

The new Federal Government has changed Australia's response to climate change from a financial issue (through a liability for a price on carbon emissions) to an Engineering problem.  The Coalition Government seeks to source low cost emissions reductions and improve Australia's environment. This will be done primarily through the Emissions Reduction Fund.

The Emissions Reduction Fund is a central element of the Australian Government's Direct Action Plan. The Fund will provide financial incentives for emissions reduction activities across the Australian economy.

Some of the activities which may receive incentives for abatement activities include:

  • re-vegetation and land management
  • soil carbon
  • forestry
  • energy efficiency
  • recycling
  • cleaning up power stations
  • cleaning up waste coal mine gas
  • cleaning up landfill.

The Government invites public comment on Terms of Reference on the design of the Emissions Reduction Fund by 5pm (AEDT) Monday 18 November 2013.

The Government is seeking business and community views on the design of the Emissions Reduction Fund including:
·         the likely sources of low cost, large scale abatement to come forward under the Emissions Reduction Fund;
·         how the Emissions Reduction Fund can facilitate the development of abatement projects, including through expanding the Carbon Farming Initiative and drawing on the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Scheme;
·         the details of auction arrangements to deliver cost effective outcomes;
·         the governance arrangements that will support the Emissions Reduction Fund, including the role of key institutions such as the Clean Energy Regulator;
·         the details of the monitoring, verification, compliance and payments arrangements for successful bidders at auction;
·         transitional issues relating to the existing Carbon Farming Initiative; and
·         the design and operation of a mechanism applying to emissions above the business as usual baseline.

14 November, 2013

Sympathy for Greg Hunt

I am starting to feel sorry for the Honourable Greg Hunt.

Kathleen Noonan wrote an article in the Courier Mail on the weekend about Bimblebox Nature Reserve and Waratah Coal’s China First mine.  

The Galilee Coal project has already been approved by the Qld State Government's Coordinator General, subject to a review by the Federal Government to consider "matters of national environment significance" and perhaps some impacts on water. Ms Noonan encourages those who are a little uncomfortable with any of that 'due process'', to email greg.hunt.mp@environment.gov.au.  

The former Labor Government introduced the water trigger, an amendment to the EPBC Act - the EPBC Amendment Bill 2013 – passed the Parliament on 19 June 2013. The water trigger allows the impacts of proposed large coal mining developments on water resources to be comprehensively assessed at a national level.

Previous Environment Ministers have actively administered the Federal Government's responsibilities to consider matters of national environment significance but it appears Greg Hunt will soon hand those responsibilities back to State Governments.

I also note there are 1 million women putting pressure on Greg Hunt to attend the United Nations Climate Summit in Warsaw this week.

Greg may be a little busy with the Australian Government's new Cleaner Environment Plan.


The Hon Greg Hunt
Minister for the Environment

Dear Mr Hunt,

Congratulations on your re-election to the House of Representatives and your appointment as Minister for the Environment.  It is also great to have someone with your background responsible for the climate portfolio.

It must be disappointing for you, that you are not representing the Australian people at the United Nations Climate negotiations in Warsaw, Poland this week.

It must also be frustrating to be in the spotlight for the Qld Government's approval of the Galilee Coal project. I realise that you now have limited responsibilities for administration of matters of National environmental significance.  I understand the State Governments want to be "one stop shops" for Environmental approvals.

I am grateful that the impacts of the Galilee Coal development on water resources is to be comprehensively assessed at a national level.

I wish you all the best with the implementation of the Cleaner Environment Plan.

Your's sincerely,

Rowan Barber