Following on from a range of recently announced reform initiatives, (as reported here) the Queensland Government is continuing with its mission to cut red tape for the resources sector - most recently, with the introduction of the Mines Legislation (Streamlining) Amendment Bill 2012 (Qld) (“Streamlining Bill”) to Parliament on Thursday, 2 August 2012.
The Streamlining Bill largely reflects the lapsed Resources Legislation (Balance, Certainty and Efficiency) Amendment Bill 2011 (“2011 Bill”), except as outlined below.
An ambitious consultation timetable has been set for the Streamlining Bill. It has been referred to the Agriculture, Resources and Environment Committee (“Committee”) for examination and report, which has invited submissions by Wednesday, 8 August 2012. Following the close of submissions, a public briefing, public hearing and departmental briefing will take place on Friday, 10 August 2012. The Committee will invite submitters to participate in the public hearing.
Some of the key changes proposed under the Streamlining Bill to the Petroleum and Gas (Production and Safety) Act 2004 (Qld) (“P&G Act”) include:
- provisions allowing pipeline licence holders to register easements akin to public utility easements over pipeline land or public land. This is intended to address the difficulties currently faced by gas exporters in obtaining public utility provider status;
- introduction of a distinction between ‘assessable’ and ‘non-assessable’ transfers of petroleum interests, where non-assessable transfers (e.g. transfer of a petroleum authority from a transferee to a transferor who share the same ABN) would not require assessment by the Minister prior to registration;
- provisions providing for the issue of ‘indicative approvals’ for assessable transfers (i.e. those transfers requiring Ministerial approval prior to registration). Such indicative approvals would provide an indication of whether the Minister is likely to approve the transfer, including potential conditions;
- making petroleum authorities caveatable interests for the petroleum register. Under this proposal, caveats could be lodged by any person claiming an interest in a petroleum authority and compliant caveats would be automatically recorded on the petroleum register on receipt. A caveator who lodged a caveat without ‘reasonable cause’ could potentially be required to compensate those suffering loss or damage as a result of the caveat;
- clarification of the position regarding extinguishment (or partial extinguishment) of petroleum interests where land is compulsorily acquired. Under the Streamlining Bill, extinguishment of a petroleum interest would only occur if it was necessary to extinguish all interests in the land (including native title interests); and
- authorisation of water pipelines for the transportation of produced water under petroleum pipeline licences, with an additional requirement for holders to obtain water licences for water transported off-tenement. Under these amendments, water management could be subject to greater regulation under the Water Act 2000 (Qld) and any relevant Water Resource Plans or Resource Operations Plans. Potentially, if a Water Resource Plan in the area of the Murray Darling Basin has application, the Water Act 2007 (Cwth) and any adopted Murray Darling Basin Plan may also impact on the grant of any required water licence.
In the safety space, the Streamlining Bill clarifies that the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (Qld) (“WHS Act”) will not apply to the commissioning of operating plant, the rigging up and down of drilling rigs or to ‘operating plant’ on particular authorities, tenures or tenements. However, compliance with both the WHS Act and the P&G Act will be required for construction work for operating plant (or proposed operating plant) and for specified P&G Act authorised activities that are not, of themselves, ‘operating plant’ (e.g. camp activities and the driving of vehicles).
The Streamlining Bill will also amend the Petroleum Act 1923 (Qld), in a similar manner to the P&G Act.