In brief

What’s Happened

On 2 August 2012 the Queensland parliament passed the Environmental Protection (Greentape Reduction) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2012 (Qld) and introduced the Mines Legislation (Streamlining) Amendment Bill 2012 (Qld) in an effort to cut red tape and streamline regulatory approval processes.

Who should read this?

Everyone carrying out, or planning to carry out, development requiring approval under the Environmental Protection Act 1994 (Qld) or various Queensland resource Acts. This is particularly relevant to entities in the Queensland energy and resource sector.

What do they need to do?

Prepare for the commencement of these new laws by familiarising yourself with the changes to the environmental and mining approvals processes. Seek specific advice regarding how these changes will affect your business.

The Queensland Government has taken steps towards implementing two key legislative changes aimed at cutting red tape and streamlining regulatory approval processes.

On 2 August 2012 the state parliament:

  • passed the Environmental Protection (Greentape Reduction) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2012 (Qld) (Greentape Reduction Bill), and 
  • introduced the Mines Legislation (Streamlining) Amendment Bill 2012 (Qld) (Streamlining Bill).

Greentape Reduction Bill

Minister for Environment Andrew Powell issued a media release (dated 2 August 2012) announcing that state parliament had passed the Greentape Reduction Bill. The Greentape Reduction Bill is currently awaiting assent, with the new framework anticipated to commence in March 2013.

Single approval process

The Greentape Reduction Bill proposes to create a single approval process for environmental authorities, with the key objectives being to:

  • introduce a licensing model proportionate to environmental risk, 
  • introduce flexible operational approvals, 
  • streamline the approvals process for mining and petroleum, 
  • streamline and clarify information requirements, and
  • achieve the above whilst maintaining environmental outcomes.

The Greentape Reduction Bill amends the Environmental Protection Act 1994 (Qld) (EPA) and the Sustainable Planning Act 2009 (Qld) (SPA), as part of the Government’s plan to simplify environmental approval processes and other green tape, and will:

  • repeal Chapter 4 (activities other than mining and chapter 5A activities), Chapter 5 (mining activities) and Chapter 5A (which includes petroleum activities) of the EPA and implement one application process for all environmentally relevant activities (ERAs), 
  • enable one Environmental Authority (EA) to be issued authorising all activities for a project, instead of several and SPA approvals potentially being required, 
  • simplify the application process for approvals for some lower-impact activities, and 
  • re-cast the approvals regime by separating construction and change of use approvals from operational approvals. Environmental conditions for construction would be contained in a development permit under the SPA. Once the construction stage is completed, all operating conditions would be contained in a project’s EA, and the development permit would effectively fall away.

Affected legislation

The proposed amendments will also affect the:

  • Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2003 (Qld),
  • Coastal Protection and Management Act 1995 (Qld),
  • Geothermal Energy Act 2010 (Qld),
  • Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2009 (Qld),
  • North Stradbroke Island Protection and Sustainability Act 2011 (Qld),
  • Petroleum Act 1923 (Qld),
  • Petroleum and Gas (Production and Safety) Act 2004 (Qld),
  • Torres Strait Islander Cultural Heritage Act 2003 (Qld),
  • Water Act 2000 (Qld), and
  • Water Supply (Safety and Reliability) Act 2008 (Qld).1

Streamlining Bill

The Streamlining Bill received its first reading on 2 August 2012. The purpose of the Streamlining Bill is to provide legislative changes necessary to:

  • clarify the legislative framework relating to compulsory acquisition of land as it relates to resources interests,
  • implement part of the Streamlining Approvals Project,
  • confirm and clarify current jurisdictional arrangements in relation to the regulation of hazardous chemicals, major hazard facilities and operating plants, and
  • provide increased regulatory certainty for all parties involved in the State’s emerging Coal Seam Gas (CSG) to Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) industry.

Streamlining

The Streamlining Approvals Project commenced in January 2009 with the aim of reducing the time taken to process resources permit applications without compromising the rigour of the assessment process. In parallel, the Greentape Reduction Project reforms assessment processes required under the Environmental Protection Act 1994 (Qld) for environmental assessment of environmentally relevant activities, including resources activities.

To date the Streamlining Approvals Project has produced three reports:

  • the 2009 Streamlining Approvals Project Mining and Petroleum Tenure Approval Process report,
  • the 2010 Supporting Mines Legislation (Streamlining) Amendment Bill 2012 Resource Sector Growth report, and 
  • On The Right Track 2011, a progress report for the Streamlining Approvals Project.

The amendments included in the Streamlining Bill will put in place recommendations made in these reports and are aimed at improving the efficiency of the regulatory framework for the resources sector in Queensland. A key outcome for the Streamlining Approvals Project is the introduction of an online service delivery platform, by which industry can transact with Government in a seamless online environment. Authenticated customer access will provide additional transparency for assessment processes, reducing enquiries and providing certainty on assessment status. The Streamlining Bill proposes amendments to provide the legislative framework for migrating to an online service delivery model. The online system, MyMinesOnline, will also support reforms made by the Greentape Reduction Project.

The Streamlining Bill also proposes amendments to establish common structure, terminology and assessment processes for resources activities required under the five legislative frameworks provided by the Mineral Resources Act 1989 (Qld), Petroleum and Gas (Production and Safety) Act 2004 (Qld), Petroleum Act 1923, Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2009 (Qld) and Geothermal Energy Act 2010 (Qld) (collectively the resources Acts). This will enable greater flexibility in departmental responses to the significant increases in applications for resources activities.

Compulsory acquisition

The government’s policy position regarding the compulsory acquisition of land is that resource tenure can generally co-exist with other forms of tenure and infrastructure development and that the compulsory acquisition of land should not extinguish resources interests under the resources Acts unless it is incompatible with the purpose of the take. The compulsory acquisition amendments contained in the Streamlining Bill will clarify the relationship between the compulsory acquisition of land and resource interests and ensure the resumption law aligns with government’s policy. The amendments will prospectively and retrospectively manage the impacts on resource interest holders from the taking of land.

CSG/LNG Industry

Queensland’s CSG to LNG industry is an emerging industry that is regulated under the Petroleum and Gas (Production and Safety) Act 2004 (Qld) and the Petroleum Act 1923 (Qld) (collectively the petroleum Acts). The current legislation provides no flexibility for petroleum leaseholders to adjust production commencement dates. Legislative changes are necessary to:

  • allow scheduling of production needs to respond to unexpected production success or failure, and 
  • to allow for conflicting schedules for petroleum production.

The current legislative framework also does not facilitate the efficient transportation and treatment of CSG water and brine both between permit areas and off permit areas nor the development of common user water treatment and brine processing facilities on permit areas. Amendments to the petroleum Acts will allow greater flexibility in the transportation and treatment, which would allow industry to implement better solutions for CSG water and brine, and make it easier to comply with the government’s CSG Water Management Policy.

Safety and Health

The Streamlining Bill includes amendments to maintain existing jurisdictional arrangements for safety and health at mines following the enactment of the national work safety law. The amendments will also clarify the application of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Qld) and the Petroleum and Gas (Production and Safety) Act 2004 (Qld) in relation to chemicals, major hazard facilities and operating plants.2