Environment and Planning 5 Minute Fix 15: climate change, plastic waste, EPBC Act reforms

08 Jul 2021
5 minutes

Environmental protection

Commonwealth: Timeline for EPBC Act reforms released

The Commonwealth Government has released A pathway for reforming national environmental law and an accompanying timeline to outline the Government's plans for reform the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth) (EPBC Act) following the independent review by Professor Graeme Samuel AC.

The new timeline shows that the interim national standard on matters of national environmental significance (MNES) will be reviewed within the next two years but that the full suite of standards will not be finalised within the next two years. Some standards, such as the national standard on environmental restoration and offsets, will not be finalised until at least 2024.

Other priority reforms, such as single touch approvals, are planned to be implemented by late 2022. These approvals will be implemented through bilateral agreements between the federal and state and territory governments and the accreditation of state and territory processes to conduct environmental approvals of Commonwealth protected matters. This will remove the need for a separate Commonwealth environmental assessment and decision process and will be underpinned by the new legally enforceable National Environmental Standards.

Commonwealth: National Koala recovery plan, listing assessment and conservation advice – have your say

The Federal Government has released a draft National Koala Recovery Plan and draft Koala Listing Assessment and Conservation Advice under the EPBC Act. This follows the impact of last year's bushfires on Koala habitat in the South East of the country.

The species is currently listed as "Vulnerable" in NSW, Qld and the ACT. However, the consultation process will explore whether this listing should be upgraded to "Endangered" in these jurisdictions. This will have an effect on EPBC Act approvals and conditions for activities which will, or will likely have, a significant impact on the species.

Submissions on the draft Koala Listing Assessment and Conservation Advice can be made until Friday, 30 July 2021. Submissions on the draft National Koala Recovery Plan can be made until Friday, 24 September 2021.

Commonwealth: Temporary clean-up levy to be imposed on oil and gas companies

On 1 July 2021, the Federal Government introduced a temporary levy on offshore petroleum production to recoup costs associated with the decommissioning and remediation of the Laminaria-Corallina oilfields

All entities with an ownership interest in a petroleum production licence issued under the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006 will be liable for the levy. The levy will apply at the title holder level, with all members of a joint venture individually liable in proportion to their interest.

The levy will be paid on an annual basis at a rate of $0.48 per barrel of oil equivalent produced, as measured at the well-head. The levy will end once the costs incurred by the decommissioning of the Laminaria-Corallina oilfields and associated infrastructure have been recovered.

For more information, see the Laminaria-Corallina Oilfields Decommissioning Levy Discussion Paper.

Climate change

Commonwealth: New carbon capture and storage method to generate carbon credit units

The Federal Government is currently seeking feedback on a proposed new methodology determination under the Emissions Reduction Fund, the Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming Initiative – Carbon Capture and Storage) Methodology Determination 2021.

It is understood that the Clean Energy Regulator has been developing a Carbon Capture Storage (CCS) method since late 2020 and it would allow projects that capture and permanently store greenhouse gases in underground geological formations to generate Australian carbon credit units.

Submissions about the proposed method and associated amendments to the Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming Initiative) Rule 2015 required to support the method can be made to the Emissions Reduction Assurance Committee until Tuesday, 27 July 2021.

WA: EPA requests scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions estimates for gas pipeline project

The WA EPA has required APA to provide a credible estimate of scope 3 emissions, as set out in the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Environmental Factor Guidelines, to inform assessment of its Northern Goldfields Interconnect Pipeline project.

The project comprises a 580km underground gas pipeline running from 50km east of Geraldton to 40km south of Leinster, which will connect existing gas distribution networks and increase gas supply capacity for downstream users. In its referral documentation, APA stated that because the pipeline would act as a conveyance system to enable the transfer of gas within WA to downstream users (existing and future) in the Mid West and Goldfields Regions which were unable to be comprehensively defined, the project did not “lend itself to a traditional Scope 3 GHG emissions assessment”.

In response to the WA EPA, APA provided a sliding scale of probability to model future downstream customers and create an indicative market demand forecast table, which was used to estimate operational scope 3 emissions.


Commonwealth: Ban on export of plastic waste has now commenced

Following the 1 January 2021 ban on the export of glass in a whole or broken state waste, the next stage under the Recycling and Waste Reduction Act 2020 (Cth) and Recycling and Waste Reduction (Export—Waste Plastics) Rules 2021 (Rules) is now in effect. Starting on 1 July 2021, the export of mixed plastics is banned where they are not of a single resin or polymer type or where further sorting, cleaning and/or processing is required before re-use.

Where the waste plastic has been sorted and processed a licence must be held for export as follows:

  • from 1 July 2021 – plastics that can be sorted into a single resin or polymer type; and
  • from 1 July 2022 – plastics that can be sorted and processed for further use (eg into pellets or hot wash flakes). From this date single resin or polymer plastics that have been sorted only will be banned.

Further information about the ban and licencing requirements can be found here.

NSW: Updated Energy from Waste Policy Statement finalised

The NSW Energy from Waste Policy Statement has been finalised and updated, now representative of the emissions standards which reflect the recommendations of the NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer.

The Policy Statement now includes the world’s best-practice air pollution emission limits. The particular emissions limits that have been strengthened include heavy metals, cadmium and thallium, mercury and hydrogen fluoride. Emission monitoring requirements have also been strengthened.

WA: Fast-tracking ban on single use plastics

The WA Government has updated its Plan for Plastics, bringing the timeline forward by four years, and committing to a full roll out by the end of 2022. The update was released in June in response to strong community support for the initiative.

The new timeline will see single-use plastic bowls, cups, plates, cutlery, stirrers, straws, polystyrene food containers, thick plastic bags and helium balloon releases banned by the end of this calendar year. Stage 2, now due for implementation by the end of 2022, will ban plastic barrier/produce bags, cotton buds with plastic shafts, polystyrene packaging, microbeads, oxo-degradable plastics and (newly introduced in the updated plan) takeaway coffee cups and lids.

Special thanks to Scott Howieson in our Perth office, Clare Foran in our Brisbane office, Bevan Willoughby in our Melbourne office and Nadine Holterman and Tahmyna Rad in our Sydney office for their contribution to this edition.
Clayton Utz communications are intended to provide commentary and general information. They should not be relied upon as legal advice. Formal legal advice should be sought in particular transactions or on matters of interest arising from this communication. Persons listed may not be admitted in all States and Territories.