New laws to strengthen environmental framework
Published Wednesday, 12 October, 2022 at 03:15 PM
Minister for the Environment and the Great Barrier Reef and Minister for Science and Youth Affairs
The Honourable Meaghan Scanlon
A new Bill has been introduced into Queensland’s parliament to ensure the state’s environmental framework remains modern by providing greater consultation on resource projects, ensuring EISs remain up-to-date and early certainty on clearly unacceptable projects.
Environment Minister Meaghan Scanlon today introduced the Environmental Protection and Other Legislation Amendment (EPOLA) Bill following an extensive engagement process by the Department of Environment and Science with conservation groups, the agriculture sector and industry.
“Community expectations, technology and industry is evolving – and it’s vital that our laws remain modern and reflect the changes we’re seeing,” Minister Scanlon said.
“Making sure that we have certainty for landowners and industry, while also making sure that we continue to protect our environment is critical to creating good jobs and protecting our great lifestyle.
Minister Scanlon said the reforms would provide greater certainty for the community and industry, including a proposed change that would give the regulator power to end an EIS process where the proposal was clearly unacceptable and would be unlikely to gain approvals or contravenes laws, as is.
“This will be done by introducing an ‘early no’ step in the EIS process so that community and project proponents know early in the piece that a project will not receive approvals as proposed, saving industry and the regulator time and money.
“Under the proposed legislation, we’re also making sure that public notification occurs for any major amendments to environmental authorities for resource-sector projects to make sure local communities are aware and can have their say.
“During consultation with stakeholders, we saw that in some instances EISs upwards of 10 years old were being relied upon for project proposals, often with outdated information.
“This Bill will modernise the framework so that EISs remain current for three years, at which point proponents can apply to extend the period.
Minister Scanlon said where there is evidence of wrongdoing, the Bill would also update legislation to make sure responsible directors and officers can be held liable.
“We’ve listened to what stakeholders have told us, and we’ll also see support through short-term environmental authorities for non-resource activities to trial innovations as well as measures to assist Queensland industry and individuals to meet their environmental requirements in an emergency situation.
Minister Scanlon said the Bill would also look to strengthen end of life provisions for resource projects, with measures to assist the transition to new Progressive Rehabilitation and Closure Plans as well as extending timeframes for estimated rehabilitated cost decisions.
“It will also give staff the ability to use body-worn cameras and drones.
Minister Scanlon said in addition to consultation already done with conservation groups, industry and the agriculture sector, the Bill would now be open to consultation through the committee process of parliament.
“This is about better protecting our environment, giving industry support by streamlining and providing greater certainty on processes, and ensuring the independent regulator can continue to be effective in its role.”
Media contact: Francis Dela Cruz – 0420 592 078