The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) is the Australian Government’s core piece of environmental legislation which commenced 16 July 2000. Information about the EPBC is found here. We posted earlier about the EPBC water trigger.
The EPBC Act enables the Australian Government to join with the states and territories to deliver a national level scheme of environment and heritage protection and biodiversity conservation. The EPBC Act has the objective to focus the Australian Government interests on the protection of matters of national environmental significance, with the states and territories having responsibility for matters of state and local significance.
Following a change of government, a ‘one stop shop’ for environmental approvals that will accredit state planning systems under national environmental law, to create a single environmental assessment and approval process, is being pursued. This one stop shop policy aims to simplify the approvals process for businesses, lead to swifter decisions and improve Australia’s investment climate, while maintaining high environmental standards.
On 16 October 2013, the Minister for the Environment, the Hon Greg Hunt MP, announced that the Government had approved the framework for achieving the one stop shop. This includes a three-stage process with each of the willing jurisdictions, comprising:
– signing a Memorandum of Understanding;
– agreement on bilateral assessments and updating any existing agreement with the state; and
– negotiation of approval bilateral agreements within 12 months.
Memoranda of Understanding have to date been formed with New South Wales and Queensland. The status of current proposals and agreements reached, together with the associated documents is found here.
Queensland has extensive coal resources. The Kevin’s Corner and Alpha coalmines are two of a series of developments planned for the coal-rich Galilee basin area of central Queensland. GVK’s press release on the proposed Kevin’s Corner coal mine is here.
Per the Guardian news article on legal action being considered by environmental groups – Carbon emissions from coal mined at Kevin’s Corner are estimated at 58m tonnes a year – more than the entire annual emissions of Denmark. Construction is set to start in 2015, with the first coal mined in 2018.