A Bill reforming state environmental laws to ensure greater consultation on resource projects and certainty surrounding unacceptable ventures has been introduced to Queensland Parliament.
Environment Minister Meaghan Scanlon yesterday introduced the Environmental Protection and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2022 (EPOLA Bill) following an extensive engagement process by the Department of Environment and Science with conservation groups, the agriculture sector and industry.
Ms Scanlon said community expectations, technology and industry was evolving and it was vital laws remained modern and reflected change.
“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,” she said.
Ms Scanlon said reforms would provide greater certainty for the community and industry, including a proposed change that would give the regulator power to end an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process where the proposal was clearly unacceptable and would be unlikely to gain approvals or contravened 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,” she said.
“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we saw that in some instances EISs upwards of 10 years old were being relied upon for project proposals, often with outdated information.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.
“Where there is evidence of wrongdoing, the Bill would also update legislation to make sure responsible directors and officers can be held liable.”
The proposed Bill is also expected 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,” she said. “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.”