Commonwealth: Consultation on 2023 offshore greenhouse gas storage acreage release
The Commonwealth Department of Industry, Science and Resources is seeking feedback on the following nominated offshore areas being considered in the acreage release:
- Bonaparte Basin;
- Browse Basin;
- Northern Carnarvon Basin;
- Perth Basin;
- Otway Basin;
- Bass Basin; and
- Gippsland Basin.
The release will make new areas available for companies to explore for permanent offshore storage locations.
Submissions can be made until 30 June 2023.
Commonwealth: Have your say on setting, measuring and achieving Australia’s emissions reductions targets
The Climate Change Authority has released its Issues Paper 2023 – Setting, measuring and achieving Australia's emissions reduction targets for consultation to support the following advice and projects it has been tasked to deliver to the Australian Government:
- advice on emissions reduction targets for Australia’s next Nationally Determined Contribution under the Paris Agreement;
- advice for the Minister for Climate Change and Energy’s Annual Climate Change Statement;
- review of the Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming Initiative) Act 2011 (CFI); and
- review of the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act 2007 (NGER).
Some of the key questions (amongst others) in the Issues Paper relate to:
- the progress framework, including the impact by or preparing for the net zero transition, how governments can be support this, what are the challenges and opportunities with responding to climate change and when is it appropriate for the government to regulate;
- what Australia’s 2035 target should be;
- the leading indictors of progress towards net zero emissions and preparing for and adapting to climate change;
- factors for developing sectoral decarbonisation pathways and the risks / opportunities associated with the transition;
- challenges and opportunities from a phase-out of fossil fuel production and what the Government should consider;
- risks and opportunities as the world decarbonises and as Australia responds to the impacts of climate change and what government can do to help;
- what Australia’s 2035 target should be and the types of targets that are important and/or problematic;
- the strengths and weaknesses of the CFI, Emissions Reduction Fund and NGERs as well as with respect to carbon credit integrity and the role the international carbon markets should have in Australia; and
- what else the Authority should be considering in its advice to the Government.
TAS: Tasmania's New Climate Change Action Plan
The Tasmanian Department of State Growth has unveiled the new Climate Change Action Plan for 2023-2025, which sets out the Government's plan for action on climate change for the next two years and supports the transition to a low emissions economy and the target to maintain net zero greenhouse gas emissions, or lower, from 2030. The key priorities which are the focus of the Plan are:
- Information and Knowledge – ensuring that businesses, industries, governments and communities can make informed decisions by providing up-to-date, high-quality and user-friendly information about Tasmania’s emissions, future climate, and emissions reduction, sequestration and adaptation opportunities.
- Transition and Innovation –reduce emissions by making the most of opportunities using existing and emerging technologies, and support businesses, industry and the community through the transition to a low emissions economy.
- Adaptation and Resilience – manage the risks and take advantage of the potential opportunities from climate change, support planning and decision making, and build the resilience of our communities, environments, industries and infrastructure.
The Plan sets out a suite of actions the Government will implement to delivery these key priorities. It is understood that the Climate Change Office will develop an implementation plan that clearly outlines timelines, outputs and performance indicators for each action in the Plan.
Commonwealth: Strict new mandatory rules on the way for packaging
At the National Environment Ministers Meeting (EMM) on 9 June, the Federal Environment Minister, along with State and Territory Environment Ministers, agreed to new rules for packaging waste, including mandatory obligations for packaging design standards and targets. As part of these obligations, industries will be required to phase out harmful chemicals and other contaminants in their packaging, and a timeframe set for removing contaminants from compostable food packaging. This new packaging regulatory regime aims to reduce packaging waste within the environment and to encourage greater participation in recycling.
During the EMM, the Environment Ministers also reaffirmed their commitment to assist Australia in transitioning from a “take, make, waste” economy to a "more resilient and regenerative circular economy".
Other initiatives that were agreed upon by the Environment Ministers included:
- ensuring the States and Territories work with the new National Environmental Data Office and share information between jurisdictions;
- committing to greater action to address biodiversity and threatened species issues, including better feral cat control;
- developing a roadmap to help protect and conserve 30% of Australia's land by 2024;
- implementing a road map for the harmonisation of kerbside collections across Australia by 2024;
- developing a national framework for Australia's transition to a circular economy, informed by the work of the Circular Economy Advisory Group; and
- monitoring the implementation of a product stewardship scheme for the Australian fashion industry by 30 June 2024, including taking steps to regulate this scheme if required.
QLD: Waste reforms to commence 1 July 2023
On 2 June 2023, the Waste Reduction and Recycling and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2023 received assent with the majority of amendments to commence on 1 July 2023.
The Amendments Act removes the definition of "waste" from the Environmental Protection Act 1994 (Qld), and cross-references to a new definition of "waste" which the Amendment Act inserts into the Waste Reduction and Recycling Act 2011 (Qld) (WRR Act). "Waste" now includes any thing that:
- is left over, or is an unwanted by-product, from an industrial, commercial, domestic or other activity; or
- is surplus to the industrial, commercial, domestic or other activity generating the waste.
"Waste" does not however include:
- a resource; or
- a thing prescribed by regulation not to be a waste.
The above will however become a waste if disposed of at a waste disposal site or is deposited at a place in a way that would, if the thing were waste, contravene either the general littering or illegal dumping provisions.
A "thing" may be prescribed as not being a waste in a regulation where there is broad application and generation of low-risk materials and may only be made following the completion of public consultation and after consideration of certain stated matters, such as achieving the objects of the Waste Act and more effective alternatives.
The WRR Act will also be amended to include a definitions of both "circular economy" and "circular economy principle" to implement these concepts into the legislative framework:
- circular economy – an economy in which all products and materials are kept for as long as they have value or remain useful.
- circular economy principle – the principle that, to promote waste avoidance and minimise the impact of waste on the environment and human health, all products and materials should be kept in the economy for as long as they have value or remain useful. Amongst other things, this principle recognises that unavoidable waste should be managed in accordance with the waste and resource recovery management hierarchy, that ecosystems are regenerated by reducing the demand for virgin materials, and that the adoption of circular products and materials (those that can be reused, repaired, refurbished, repurposed or remanufactured) should be incentivised in ways that increase the value of the products and materials. This promotes waste avoidance and minimises the impact of waste on the environment and human health.
The Amendment Act also removes the automatic levy exemption for clean earth that is delivered to a leviable waste disposal site. From 1 July 2023, the waste levy will apply to any clean earth disposed of in a landfill or waste facility. Landfill operators can apply for an "operational purposes exemption" to include clean earth where that material is used for the good operation and maintenance of the leviable waste disposal site. Clean earth that is reused as clean fill or for other beneficial purposes outside of the landfill system will not be subject to the waste levy.
VIC: New circular economy regulations have commenced
On 23 May 2023, the Victorian Government gave notice under the Subordinate Legislation Act 1994 that the Circular Economy (Waste Reduction and Recycling) (Waste to Energy Scheme) Regulations 2023 commenced on 1 June 2023. The objective of the Regulations is to prescribe matters in relation to the waste to energy scheme under Part 5A of the Circular Economy (Waste Reduction and Recycling) Act 2021 (WRR Act), in particular:
- Waste to energy licences – a person operating a thermal waste to energy facility must not process permitted waste at that facility using a thermal waste to energy process except as authorised by a waste to energy licence.
- Cap licences – may be applied for by a person who is an approved applicant in relation to the proposed thermal waste to energy facility or an existing facility (as appropriate) and is proposing to increase the amount of permitted waste that is processed at that existing facility.
- Existing operators – an existing operator is to apply to the Head, Recycling Victoria for an existing operator licence in relation to an existing facility within six months after the commencement day in order to be able to continue to lawfully operate that facility.
- Amendment, suspension, revocation and transfer of waste to energy licences – prescribes how a waste to energy licence can be amended, suspended, revoked or transferred.
- "Fit and proper person" test – when determining whether a person is a fit and proper person to operate a thermal waste to energy facility, the Head, Recycling Victoria may have regard to any relevant matter including (amongst other things):
- whether the person has been convicted or found guilty of an offence against, or is contravening or has contravened a provision of, the WRR Act or the regulations; or
- whether the person has been convicted or found guilty of an offence against the Corporations Act; or
- whether the person has, within the preceding 10 years, been convicted or found guilty of an indictable offence of other offences, including those involving fraud or dishonesty; or
- if the person holds or has held a waste to energy licence, or any licence or permit issued under a law of another State or a Territory that the Head, Recycling Victoria considers to be the equivalent of a waste to energy licence and that person is not complying or has not complied with that licence; or that licence is or has been suspended or revoked; or
- whether the person is an insolvent under administration; or
- whether a person has failed to comply with a court order.
VIC: The definition of "waste" considered in recent court decision
The Supreme Court of Victoria has confirmed the powers of EPA Victoria to enforce community and environmental protection from hazardous waste and discussed what is "waste" under the Environment Protection Act 1970 (Vic) (EP Act).
In Nonferral Recycling Pty Ltd v Environment Protection Authority  VSC 292, Nonferral Recycling Pty Ltd disputed clean up notices issued by EPA relating to lead and aluminium materials at its Shepparton East facility on the grounds that the infringing materials were not waste. However, the Court ruled that two out of the three types of material were waste under the EP Act namely:
- the lead and aluminium materials were waste of a hazardous nature; and
- the "aluminium sludge" was ruled not to be waste, as it was a product ready for sale with no risk to humans or the environment.
The term "waste" as defined in section 4(1) of the EP Act was interpreted by the Court with reliance on the Court of Appeal decision in Dasma Environmental Pty Ltd v Environment Protection Agency  VSCA 248. The Court found that "waste" is "any discarded, rejected, unwanted, surplus or abandoned matter" and the definition of "waste" is a decision hinged on numerous factors such as whether the materials are documented and transported as waste, if there is an inability to process or recycle them in Victoria, and a lack of a market for them in Australia.
WA: Review underway of Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Strategy 2030
The WA Waste Authority is leading a review of the Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Strategy 2030 to determine how the strategy has been performing since it was released in 2019, including what has been working under the strategy and what can be improved.
Phase 1 of the consultation process is now open and the WA Waste Authority is seeking feedback on its Directions Paper which highlights several key focus areas for the review of the Waste Strategy:
- Materials: The WA Waste Authority wishes to understand which waste material types should be addressed as a priority under the new strategy, including emerging waste streams.
- Sectors: Under the current Waste Strategy, waste is grouped into three streams: municipal solid waste; construction and demolition waste; and commercial and industrial (C&I) waste. The WA Waste Authority has identified the need to improve their C&I waste initiatives, such as providing food organics and garden organics services for commercial premises.
- Collection systems: Improving collection systems for all waste sectors, including ensuring these systems adapt to growing population numbers and urban development projects.
- Regional and remote communities: The WA Waste Authority has received feedback from regional and remote communities regarding the lack of sufficient infrastructure and support to manage their waste. Further improvements are needed to ensure regional and remote communities have access to viable waste management options, including more accessible recycling options for residents, businesses and the wider community.
- Aboriginal engagement: Undertaking better engagement and consultation with Indigenous Australians on the new waste strategy, to consider the sustainability and waste management approaches used by Indigenous Australians, and how these approaches could be used to improve the practices under the waste strategy.
- Waste Levy: The WA Waste Authority is seeking feedback on how the waste levy can more effectively influence waste management practices in WA, including whether different rates should apply to different waste streams. The WA Department of Water and Environmental Regulation is also reviewing whether the waste levy should be extended to regional and remote areas.
- Responding to emergencies: Creating better systems to address irregularities in waste generation and processing capacity, particularly when caused by emergencies (ie. pandemics, natural disasters etc.)
Phase 2 of the consultation process will begin later this year, where feedback will be sought on a new draft waste strategy. For Phase 3 of the consultation process, a modified draft strategy will be created based on submissions and feedback received during Phase 2, with further feedback sought.
Submissions on the Directions Paper can be made until 5pm on Tuesday 11 July 2023.
QLD: Strategy for Industry in a Decarbonising Global Economy Released
The Queensland Government has released its Queensland New-Industry Development Strategy in support of its renewable energy and carbon emissions reduction targets. The Strategy identifies new industry priorities, including:
- renewable energy manufacturing and infrastructure development;
- critical mineral processing, manufacturing and product development;
- battery industry development;
- green hydrogen;
- circular economy including resource recovery and recycling; and
- bioeconomy including biofuels and sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).
The Strategy highlights the Government's key focus areas to develop Queensland's new industry priorities, including:
- Queensland Jobs Fund – the Queensland Jobs Fund has a value of $5.84billion to fund the creation of jobs in the Queensland Renewable Energy Zones and Hydrogen Industry, as well as to innovate in biofuels for agricultural cropping.
- Local Economic Opportunities Network (LEO) – the strategy proposes establishing a state-wide LEO network to identify opportunities for and support communities through decarbonisation, including risk and opportunities.
- Regional Economic Futures Fund – provides funding for projects in the North West Minerals Province, Greater Whitsunday, Central Queensland, Darling Downs South-West and South Burnett regions to support the transformation from high-emitting industries to clean energy industries.
- Integrated land use and infrastructure planning – enable delivery of the State Infrastructure Strategy 2022-2042 and the land use and infrastructure plans for each region to coordinate sustainable and resilient economic growth and job creation in Queensland.
- Regional communities – seize the opportunities that come with responsible and sustainable industry development.
- Sector-wide industry development services – continue to deploy these services including project facilitation, infrastructure delivery and supply chain development.
QLD: Exposure draft legislation for renewable energy transformation released for consultation
The Energy (Renewable Transformation and Jobs) Bill 2023 Exposure Draft Consultation (Draft Bill) proposes to legislate key commitments from the Queensland Energy and Jobs Plan to provide Queenslanders with certainty and confidence through the energy transformation. The Draft Bill provides the following:
Commitments to the public
The Draft Bill proposes to legislate all three of Queensland’s renewable energy targets:
- 50% renewable energy by 2030;
- 70% renewable energy by 2032; and
- 80% renewable energy by 2035.
It is proposed that there will be Ministerial review of the renewable energy targets at least every five years.
The Draft Bill also proposes to enshrine in legislation the Government's commitment to maintaining a publicly controlled energy transition with significant private investment opportunities in generation, hydrogen, and supply chains. This includes 100% distribution and transmission, 100% deep storage, and more than 50% generation in relation to Queensland SuperGrid Infrastructure Blueprint as part of the Queensland Energy and Job Plan.
Frameworks to build the Queensland SuperGrid
The Draft Bill sets out the planning and governance frameworks to ensure an orderly energy transition which include:
- preparing an update to the Queensland Supergrid Infrastructure Blueprint;
- investigate appropriate legislative models to support the delivery Priority Transmission Investments;
- coordinated development of an addition 22 gigawatts of large-scale wind and solar by 2035 in Renewable Energy Zones across northern, central and southern Queensland; and
- building the SuperGrid, and investing in more Grid Supporting Technology, including batteries and storage.
Governance and Advice
The Draft Bill proposes to allow for:
- the establishment of a new technical board for expert advice – the Queensland Energy System Advisory Board;
- establishment of an Energy Industry Council to provide advice to Government; and
- appointment of the Queensland Renewable Energy Jobs Advocate.
Submissions on the Draft Bill can be made until 30 June 2023.
NT: Commencement dates fixed for the Petroleum Legislation Amendment Act 2022 and related Subordinate Legislation
By Gazette notice published on 13 June 2023 the commencement date of 22 June 2023 has been fixed for the Petroleum Legislation Amendment Act 2022 (the PLA Act). We previously comprehensively reviewed the changes introduced by the Act which amends the following legislation to satisfy the final 13 recommendations made in the Scientific Inquiry into Hydraulic Fracturing in the Northern Territory, chaired by Justice Rachel Pepper:
- Petroleum Act 1984 (NT) (Petroleum Act);
- Petroleum Regulations 2020 (NT);
- Petroleum (Environment) Regulations 2016 (NT); and
- Environmental Offences and Penalties Regulations 2011 (NT).
In summary, some key features of the PLA Act include implementing changes to:
- the objectives and definitions of the Petroleum Act that, amongst other things, encourage the effective exploration of petroleum and the development of petroleum production so that the optimal value of the resource is returned to the Territory;
- the Petroleum (Environment) Regulations 2016 to require that a human health risk assessment report form part of any report about produced water or flowback fluid and that any HHRA must take into account specific national guidelines and guidance manuals including the Chemical Risk Assessment Guidance Manuals;
- the Petroleum Act to introduce new plans that, depending upon the relevant operations, must be approved by the Minister prior to conducting any relevant activities. The plans are designed to ensure that onshore petroleum resources are managed appropriately for the benefit of the Territory, by securing the integrity of wells and surface infrastructure and pursuing suitable production strategies;
- the Petroleum Act to provide a financial assurance framework that introduces mandatory environmental remediation and petroleum infrastructure decommissioning securities as well as mandatory insurance requirements for certain petroleum interests;
- the Petroleum Act to provide new avenues for merits review processes for third parties and civil enforcement proceedings and amending costs rules so that litigation genuinely brought in the public interest may not incur a cost. To compliment these amendments, the Act has introduced new and amended some existing defences available to parties charged with an offence under the Petroleum Act;
- the Petroleum Act which allow a permittee or retention licensee to apply to recover petroleum on an appraisal basis under their petroleum interest which approval is subject to conditions specified by the Minister; and
- the Petroleum Act to redirect liability for costs which currently burden the Territory Government to private entities by imposing two new non-refundable levies and revised and new fees.
By separate Gazette notice published on 13 June 2023, notification was given that the Petroleum Amendment Regulations 2023 (NT) and the Petroleum (Transitional) Regulations 2023 (NT) were made under the Petroleum Act to support the PLA Act amendments.
Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG)
QLD: Commitment to ESG brand for resources industry
The Queensland's Resources Industry Development Plan (QRIDP) is a recent Government commitment to creating a bold ESG brand for the resource industry. The QRIDP identifies six key focus areas, including:
- growing and diversifying the industry;
- strengthening Queensland's ESG credentials and protect the environment;
- fostering coexistence and sustainable communities;
- ensuring strong and genuine First Nations partnerships;
- building a safe and resilient future workforce; and
- improve regulatory efficiency.
These focus areas are realised by the QRIDP in its plans to advance:
- critical minerals opportunities, including exploration, common user facility for processing of critical minerals by multiple, smaller mining companies and supporting new economy minerals projects;
- ·opportunities to re-commercialise abandoned mines;
- decarbonising the resources industry;
- developing and maintaining genuine and strong partnerships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, including commercial partnerships; and
- reviewing and strengthening cultural heritage Acts.
QRIDP proposes establishing a Ministerial Queensland Resources Industry Development Plan Advisory Group, governed by a term of reference to monitor, guide and advise on implementation of government and industry actions and expectations agreed to in the QRIDP.
ACT: Planning reforms passed with a Territory Plan to be established
The ACT Legislative Assembly passed the Planning Bill 2022 on 6 June 2023 which will lay the foundation for the ACT's reformed planning system that is outcomes-focused and promotes good planning, design and development across Canberra, while supporting the wellbeing of residents and protecting the natural environment.
We previously considered the Bill which was introduced in September 2022 and subsequently referred to the Standing Committee on Planning, Transport and City Services for inquiry and report. The Standing Committee made a series of recommendations in a report published on 22 December 2022.
The Bill, which is currently awaiting assent, will replace the Planning and Development Act 2007 (ACT) on commencement and will make the following key changes (amongst others) to the planning framework:
- introducing principles of good planning;
- establishing the Territory Planning Authority who will have the responsibility of preparing, administering and reviewing the Territory Plan and undertaking compliance and enforcement under the Planning Act and other Territory laws;
- expanding strategic planning provisions by introducing district strategies, a layer of strategic planning to bridge the gap between the Planning Strategy and the Territory Plan;
- introducing a two-stage notification process for significant developments to allow for more community input;
- establishing an outcomes-focused Territory Plan which will include zone and district planning policies, land use tables and development assessment requirements and outcomes;
- simplified Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process, with removal of EIS exemptions;
- providing a process for proponents to propose amendments to the Territory Plan;
- introducing the concept of significant development which will require a subdivision design application, consultation with the Design Review panel and/or an environmental impact statement;
- introducing a new design guide that must be considered when assessing a development application; and
- requiring the new Planning Act be reviewed after three years.
Special thanks to Nicole Besgrove (Brisbane) for co-ordinating the ESD 5 Minute Fix and to Sarah Gough (Brisbane), Isabella Fiolo (Perth), Joseph McDonald and Tom Flower (Melbourne), Madeleine Grant (Darwin) and Jeremy U (Sydney) for their contribution to this edition.
QLD: Final report delivered in independent review of powers and penalties under the EP Act
An independent review into the adequacy of the environmental regulator's powers and penalties available under the Environmental Protection Act 1994 (EP Act) has been completed, and the final report provided to the Minister for Environment and the Great Barrier Reef and Minister for Science and Youth Affairs.
The final report found the EP Act generally has an adequate range of powers and penalties to enforce environmental obligations and reduce the risk of environmental harm. However, several key areas were flagged for possible legislative reform. In the Government Response to the final report, the Minister indicated broad support for each recommendation not already addressed by the Environmental Protection and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2023 that commenced on 5 April 2023.
Key recommendations include:
Amend definitions in sections 15, 16, and 17 and corresponding threshold amounts
The definitions of environmental nuisance (section15), and material and serious environmental harm (sections 16 and 17 respectively) should clarify that certain emissions, including odour, that may constitute a nuisance at low levels, may also constitute material or serious environmental harm if it meets the definitions. The threshold amounts for material and serious environmental harm should be reviewed and increased.
Elevate environmental principles
Amend the EP Act to include four principles:
- polluter pays;
- primacy of prevention; and
- the precautionary principle.
Create a general environmental duty (GED) offence
Consideration should be given to creating an offence for breaching the GED as this is currently not an offence.
Amend duty to notify environmental harm
Include a duty to notify contaminated land that is based on the knowledge alone of the owner or occupier rather than the becoming aware of potential consequences as result of carrying out an activity as prescribed in section 320A.
Expand power to amend environmental authority (EA) conditions
The Minister or Chief Executive can amend EA conditions where it is considered the environmental impact of an activity is not being appropriately avoided, mitigated, or managed.
Expand power to amend a Transitional Environmental Program (TEP)
Allow the administering authority to amend without the consent of the operator and allow the administering authority to refuse an amendment of a TEP if not satisfied that the amendment would likely achieve advancement of compliance with the Act. We note that the Government considers this recommendation was partially addressed by the EPOLA reforms earlier this year.
Amend Environmental Protection Order (EPO) provisions
Remove the need to consider the standard criteria in deciding whether to issue an EPO and extend to the power to issue an EPO to all offences which relate to acts that have caused or might cause environmental harm.
It is understood that the Government will release a public consultation paper and/or Regulatory Impact Statement in the second half of 2023, which will then be followed by the development of the necessary amendments to legislation.
QLD: Consultation open on Lake Eyre Basin Consultation Regulatory Impact Statement
The Regulatory Impact Statement provides select options suggested by the Queensland Government for how to best ensure that Queensland’s environmental protections achieve a balance between ecological sustainability and future economic prosperity for the Queensland Lake Eyre Basin region.
Some of the key environmental values of the Lake Eyre Basin are:
- it has some of the last largely free-flowing rivers in Australia;
- it is one of the world’s biggest internal draining systems, meaning the streams do not reach the sea;
- it is comprised of connected watercourses and springs, highly fertile floodplains and groundwater dependent ecosystems. These river systems, in turn, are the life blood of Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre system; and
- the wetlands support the nationally-listed, threatened ecological community of native species dependent on natural discharge of groundwater from the Great Artesian Basin.
The options set out in the Regulatory Impact Statement relate to spatial options (extent of mapped protections); regulatory options (future permitted activities); and options for environmental attributes of the Queensland LEB river systems and the floodplains of the region.
Submissions can be made until 5.00pm Friday 25 August 2023.