27 March, 2013

Greentape & lighthanded regulation

Greentape and “Lighthanded” regulation

The Greentape Reduction legislation introduced by the former Qld Government, prior to the last election is now coming into force on 31 March 2013.

The Qld Government is highlighting two important initiatives from this legislation:
·       the deletion of 20 environmentally relevant activity (ERA) thresholds from the Environmental Protection Regulation and
·       the implementation of a new Regulatory Strategy.

EHP's new Regulatory Strategy is a fundamental shift in the way environmental and regulatory activities will be undertaken, an increase its compliance activities and its enforcement actions will become stronger and more consistent.

One of the department’s first “light handed” actions was to relax processes to provide local governments with flexibility to manage their environmental relevant activities during natural disasters.

The release of the EHP Environment Recovery Plan sets out three key stages in the environmental recovery timeline:
·       Immediate or short term recovery—which aims to meet the immediate needs of affected communities. This includes restoring critical water supply and sewage treatment services.
·       Medium term recovery—which aims to address less urgent, high priority environmental issues and includes activities to manage waste and debris.
·       Long term recovery—which aims to restore the environment to near pre-disaster levels and includes such things as permanent repairs to water/sewerage infrastructure, and restoration of natural areas.

EHP has been working with local governments and industry as it addresses the requirements under the immediate and medium term recovery activities and has established a Local Government Recovery Coordinator to assist local councils with their immediate recovery and reconstruction work.

Gladstone Harbour

Gladstone Harbour is a test case for the Qld State Government’s approach to Environmental regulation in Qld.

Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney has expressed his desire to annex Gladstone Harbour from the Great Barrier Reef marine Park.

The Qld Government has appointed Dr Ian Poiner as the chair of the Gladstone Healthy Harbour Science Panel for the Gladstone Healthy Harbour Partnership.

Dr Ian Poiner who will be joined by a further seven scientists specialising in hydrodynamic, biogeochemistry, marine biodiversity, water quality, marine toxicology, ecosystem health and decision support and modelling.

my submission to the Qld Water Strategy

The following is my submission to the community consultation on the Qld Water Strategy, which closes on 29 March 2013, 11.59pm

Queensland's water sector: a 30-year strategy discussion paper

Department of Energy and Water Supply

PO Box 15456

City East Qld 4002

To whom it may concern,

Please find follow a few brief comments addressing the 30 year water strategy discussion paper.

Over the next 30 years, it is increasing likely that rainfall will become more variable and more intense. We are likely to see greater extremes of droughts and flooding rains.

I am concerned about the emphasis in the strategy on "lowest cost". I would like to see a greater emphasis on best value.

There are opportunities for integration of water management that could lead to lower costs.

There is a wholesale move by the Qld State Government towards "light handed" regulation. While I understand the rationale, I am not entirely confident that environmental and public health values can be protected with "light handed" regulation.

That said, I would like to see more demonstration projects and research around new and innovative ways to obtain and deliver water supplies and sewage/trade waste collection and treatment.

The current institutional arrangements for water supply and sewage collection and treatment is not ideal.

I would like to see more vertical integration.

The water sector is currently split horizontally (particularly in SE Qld) along the same lines as the electricity industry into generators and retail/distributors.

This model does not lend itself to integrated water management, across water catchments. In many cases local councils are in a better position to manage the integrated water cycle. Storm water is often neglected as a source of useful water, particularly for industrial reuse, cooling water, irrigation water etc.

I would like to see the retention of the integrity of the regulatory framework (e.g. drinking water quality, environmental protection, public health) while reducing the regulatory burden, by making regulation less prescriptive and move towards performance based or outcome based regulation.

I think water/sewage quality regulation needs to focus on setting criteria that are "fit for purpose".

Self regulation is appropriate when water and sewage treatment plants are run by public sector utilities. I would be very concerned if self regulation applied to private sector (for-profit) utilities.

I think it is entirely appropriate that numerous government departments regulate or have an interest in water and sewerage services including DEWS, Environment, health, natural resources etc.

I think the water business would benefit from geographical catchment based water utilities. In some cases that might been amalgamation of small regional (council utilities). In SEQ, that might mean de-amalgamation of Qld Urban Utilities and Unity Water. Water Utilities should mange the entire water cycle including water supply, stormwater, sewage, trade waste and water recycling.

During the millennium drought (2002-2009), the western corridor water recycling scheme was established. This scheme has never been commissioned for indirect potable re-use.

There would be many benefits from treating sewage effluent for potable reuse.

The advanced water treatment plant at Bundamba could also improve the quality of the effluent that is currently being discharged to the natural environment.

If purified recycled water was used for potable supplies, one would not have to retain so much water in dams. The dams could be operated with lower storage levels and provide greater capacity for flood mitigation.

In terms of innovation, I would like to see the Qld water industry participate in more local projects, to demonstrate the next generation of toilet technologies. As a developed nation, I would like to see us invest in developing technologies that have global implications.

There are 2.4 billion people in the world who lack access to a designated sustainable place to poo. A billion of those people live in Asia/Pacific.

There are a billion people in the world who lack access to adequate drinking water supplies.

The Qld water industry could be developing technologies and service delivery models that meet our own needs. The same technologies may help those in developing communities.

Thank you for the opportunity to participate in the consultation for the 30 year water strategy.


Rowan Barber      

25 March, 2013

Bowen CSG pipeline project EIS receives approval

Media Statements

Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection
The Honourable Andrew Powell

Monday, March 25, 2013

Bowen pipeline project EIS receives approval

A proposed billion dollar coal seam gas pipeline has been given the go-ahead by the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP).
Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection Andrew Powell said the department had completed its assessment of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Arrow Energy Bowen Pipeline Project.
“The project would involve the construction and operation of a 580 kilometre high-pressure gas pipeline to deliver coal seam gas from gas fields in the Bowen Basin to a proposed LNG plant at Gladstone,” Mr Powell said.
“The department considered the EIS documentation, as well as public submissions, before deciding it was satisfied the environmental impacts of the pipeline would not be unacceptable.
“The buried pipeline route would cross private land, roads, railway lines, watercourses and wetlands. 
“Arrow Energy has outlined a range of practices in the EIS to ensure that activities conducted across various types of terrain and land uses would deliver an acceptable environmental outcome.
“The pipeline will also require an Environmental Authority from the department which will set out enforceable environmental performance requirements during the construction and operation of the pipeline.
“These conditions would ensure commitments made in the EIS are fully implemented.” 
Mr Powell said the pipeline would involve a capital investment of approximately $1 billion and generate around 700 new jobs.
“Over the past twelve months we have consistently said we would work with industry to deliver sustainable economic development while upholding strong environmental standards and this project is a great example of that,” he said.
“While the EIS process is now finalised, Arrow Energy will need to obtain some final approvals from EHP and other government agencies. This project will also require Federal Government approval before construction can commence.”
“The Newman Government is confident we can work with industry to deliver positive economic outcomes for Queensland while protecting our environment.”
[ENDS] 25 March 2013
Media contact: Brooke Hargraves 0458 689 043

22 March, 2013

Land clearing

Vegetation Management

The Qld Government has announced proposed reforms to state vegetation management laws which are intended to pave the way for development of new agricultural areas in Qld’s Gulf Country but has implications across the state for agriculture, mining and property development.

In 2006, clearing of remnant vegetation to create pastures for agriculture was the principal activity that was stopped and which previously accounted for the vast majority of land clearing.

The high rates of land clearing and habitat fragmentation prior to 2006 in Australia, particularly in Qld, have been identified in State of the Environment reports as the single most significant threat to terrestrial biodiversity in Australia and Qld. For example, the State of the Environment Queensland 1999 reported:

The factor contributing most to the loss of biodiversity in Queensland has been and continues to be the destruction of native habitat by broadscale land clearing. Immediate effects on biodiversity include the removal or killing of species, the most obvious being plants, and the rapid reduction in habitat for other species. Habitat loss is a major factor in loss of woodland bird diversity in Australia: it has been estimated that 1000–2000 birds die for every 100 ha of native bushland cleared

Broadscale land clearing not only reduces the extent and diversity of natural ecosystems but also fragments them into remnant patches that, in many cases, are too small and too isolated to maintain viable populations of species.

In 2012, AgForce reinstated the AgForce Vegetation Management Committee to gather information on the limitations of the current Vegetation Management Act 1999.  The Committee has been assisting the Qld Government understand what AgForce considers to be the key failings of the Act.

The Agforce Committee has overseen a consultation process with their members across the state to provide feedback on the legislation, its regulation and associated codes and has suggested changes to the legislation.

Now amendments are proposed in the Vegetation Management Framework Amendment Bill 2013 will allow land clearing activities to support the development of high value agriculture in areas with appropriate land and climate characteristics.

The clearing of native vegetation in Queensland is currently regulated by the Vegetation Management Act 1999. The Act currently sets down the rules and regulations that guide what clearing can be done, and how it must be done to meet the requirements of the law.

The act currently regulates clearing of remnant vegetation on a regional ecosystem and remnant map on freehold and Indigenous land and State tenures. Regulated regrowth vegetation on freehold and Indigenous land and leasehold land for agriculture and grazing is also protected. On some other State tenures native woody regrowth may also be protected.  The Qld Government proposes to introduce self-assessable codes for routine vegetation management activities such as weed and pest management, fodder harvesting and thinning.

Clearing for some activities are already exempt. These include most routine activities like fence lines, yards, firebreaks and burning off.

Clearing remnant vegetation on a regional ecosystem or remnant map, if not exempt, can currently only be done under a permit. Landholders wanting a permit must apply to the department of Natural Resources and Mines. The department assesses applications against regional vegetation management codes. These codes are also used to assess applications to clear native woody regrowth on State tenures other than leasehold land for agriculture and grazing.

Permit are not required to clear regulated regrowth. However, landholders currently need to notify the department that they intend to clear and any clearing must comply with the regrowth vegetation code.  The proposed amendments will remove these requirements.

The Bill proposes to remove regulations regarding regrowth control on freehold and indigenous land, these regulations will still apply to leasehold land and in reef watercourses.

The Qld Government proposes to detect inappropriate vegetation management practices that show no regard for the environment through satellite monitoring.

Key reforms proposed under the Vegetation Management Framework Amendment Bill 2013 include:
· The introduction of new clearing purposes under the Act for high-value agriculture and environmental works (such as land rehabilitation)
· The removal of regrowth regulations on freehold and indigenous land, but the retention of controls on regrowth control on leasehold land and in reef watercourses
· New provisions to allow for the creation of self-assessable codes for routine management activities such as weed and pest management, fodder harvesting and thinning
· The creation of simplified statewide vegetation maps to clearly define areas where regulations will apply
· The removal of the guide to sentencing under the existing Vegetation Management Act to ensure more consistent and equitable penalties in cases of inappropriate clearing

These proposed reforms will now be referred to the State Development, Infrastructure and Industry parliamentary committee for thorough examination and full public consultation.  More information on the amendments and how to make submissions to the Parliamentary Committee is available under Vegetation Management at: www.dnrm.qld.gov.au/home.

13 March, 2013

Water Resources, CSG and Coal

The Federal Government is implementing more environmental protection for water resources impacted by coal seam gas and large coal mining developments.

Amendments will be made to Australia’s national environment law, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 that will require federal assessment and approval of coal seam gas and large coal mining developments which have a significant impact on a water resource.

The Independent Expert Scientific Committee (IESC) established by the Federal Government last year will continue to provide advice for coal seam gas and large coal mining projects which may require federal assessment, including assessments of impacts on water resources.

EPBC Act approval responsibilities

This week a senate committee confirmed the Federal Department of Environment was backing away from handing over responsibilities for biodiversity approvals to the Sates.

However, the committee did not support a Greens bill to prevent national environment laws from being handed over to the states.

The committee notes the Commonwealth acknowledged that 'significant challenges emerged in developing approval bilateral agreements that provide consistency for business and assurance to the community that high standards will be made and maintained' and said it 'will introduce legislative reforms to progress its response to the Hawke review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 to further streamline and strengthen environmental regulation'.  

The opposition still supports delegation of environmental powers to the States.

The committee report, the Coalition’s additional comments and the Greens dissenting report are available here.

Shute Harbour Marina

We are encouraged to comment on the proposed $252 million Shute Harbour Marina in the Whitsundays when the Coordinator-General releases the project’s supplementary environmental impact statement (SEIS) on the 16 March 2013.

One had six weeks to comment on the SEIS for a project.

Coming on the back of the approval of the Ella Bay project and following closely on the heels of the Great Keppel Island project approval only a week ago, there is no doubt that the Queensland Government  is driving forward tourism towards a new era in Queensland.

Shute Harbour marina in the current development proposal includes:
·         395 marina berths
·         Retirement resort (70 apartments)
·         Resort hotel (109 suites)
·         Managed resort (52 lots)
·         Community cyclone shelter
·         Indigenous cultural centre

The SEIS followed the release of the original environmental impact statement (EIS) in November 2008 and represented a significant change in the size and scope of the project.

“The proponent, Shute Harbour Marina Development Pty Ltd, was required to provide the SEIS to address a number of issues raised during the public consultation on the original EIS

Issues addressed in the SEIS include the size of the original marina development, impact on marine traffic, and the location of the marina access channel.

The release of the supplementary environmental impact statement is an opportunity for the community to have its say on whether these issues have been adequately addressed.

The Shute Harbour Marina project supplementary information on the EIS, plus more details on the project, can be viewed at www.dsdip.qld.gov.au/shute-harbour-marina

All submissions must be written and delivered to the Coordinator-General’s office by 5pm on Monday 29 April 2013.

11 March, 2013

cuts to Qld energy sector red tape

I find it curious that the Qld State Government is using the introduction of the carbon tax as the justification for removing funding for renewable energy, gas and energy efficiency programs etc.....

....when the Federal opposition is adamant that it will remove the carbon tax:

Read the following statement from the Member for Caloundra:

Minister for Energy and Water Supply
The Honourable Mark McArdle

Friday, March 08, 2013

Further cuts to Queensland energy sector red tape

The Newman Government continues to cut red tape from the State’s energy sector, including closing a program which forces businesses to report their electricity use to government.
Energy Minister Mark McArdle said the State Government was closing  the Queensland Gas Scheme and the Smart Energy Savings Program (SESP) and repealing standards for new coal-fired power stations.
“These schemes, introduced by the previous State Government, have largely achieved what they set out to do and are no longer required,” Mr McArdle said.
“The Queensland Gas Scheme requires electricity retailers to source 15 per cent of their electricity from Gas Fired Generators, to encourage investment in gas fired electricity generation and boost gas production across the state.
“The scheme has served its purpose, with nearly 20 per cent of electricity currently being sourced from gas generators.
“Since Carbon Pricing, introduced  in July 2012,  is achieving similar outcomes, now is an appropriate time to remove duplication and cease the Scheme.
The Smart Energy Savings Program (SESP), requiring businesses using a certain amount of electricity,  to report their energy use to government, will also be closed.

Mr McArdle said Queensland businesses should identify energy savings to boost their bottom lines and not be forced to report these savings to Government.

“This requirement was adding red tape for no reason and the Government will not undertake any compliance activity for outstanding obligations under the SESP.”

Mr McArdle said standards for new coal-fired power stations would be abolished as they had been replaced by the introduction of carbon pricing and  no additional environmental benefit would be achieved by continuing the policy.

“The repeal of these standards will strip away the administrative burden and complexity for investors. It will allow them to select  the most appropriate technology for their needs and brings Queensland into line with all other states and the Federal Government,” he said.
”Also, based on current demand,  it is unlikely there will be a need for an additional coal-fired base load generator in Queensland within the next decade.
The Department of Energy and Water Supply will provide guidance to participants as they transition out of the two closing schemes and help energy providers understand any changes as a result of the repeal of standards on new coal-fired power stations.”
[ENDS] 8 March, 2013

08 March, 2013

ERA Thresholds Deleted

I note a the Qld State Government is making a wholesale move towards “A light-handed regulatory model”.  I shall be analyzing and unpacking the implications of this in future editions of this blog.

ERA Thresholds Deleted

The Queensland Government has approved amendments to the Environmental Protection Regulation 2008, including the deletion of 20 environmentally relevant activity thresholds. This will reduce the environmental regulatory burden for 9400 small to medium-sized businesses throughout Queensland. It is estimated that industry will save $6.18 million in annual fees.

The amendments to the Environmental Protection Regulation will take effect on 31 March 2013 to align with the changes to the Environmental Protection Act 1994 resulting from the Environmental Protection (Greentape Reduction) and other Legislation Amendment Act 2012.

EHP’s New Regulatory Strategy

EHP’s New Regulatory Strategy

The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP) has released a new Regulatory Strategy. This strategy sets out how EHP will carry out its role as the state’s environment and heritage regulator.

The new strategy is a significant change to the department’s approach to regulation, and all clients and their advisors are encouraged to read it. There is also a short video to help explain the changes.

I note a wholesale move towards “A light-handed regulatory model”.  I shall be analyzing and unpacking the implications of this in future posts to this blog.