27 Jun 2019

Environment and Planning 5 Minute Fix 04

By the Environment and planning team

The Environment and Planning 5 Minute Fix gives you a snapshot of what you need to know across a range of environment and planning issues across the country. This edition focuses on the latest in climate change and sustainable development including new accepted development codes for vegetation clearing in Queensland and restrictions on taking and disposing water for petroleum activities in the Northern Territory.

Climate change

International

UK declares climate emergency

The United Kingdom has become the first country in the world to declare a national climate emergency following protests from a UK based environmental group. The declaration was approved without a vote, although does not legally compel the Government to act.

Commonwealth

Carbon Farming Initiative guidelines

The Clean Energy Regulator has released Guidelines on stratification, evidence and records to support participation and clarify project requirements for projects under the human-induced regeneration and native forest from managed regrowth methods in the Emissions Reduction Fund. 

Reviewing the Facilities Method to improve uptake and ensure integrity  of the Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming Initiative – Facilities) Methodology Determination 2015

The Facilities Method offered under the Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming Initiative – Facilities) Methodology Determination 2015 is being reviewed to determine whether it continues to comply with the legislated offsets integrity standards.  The Facilities Method provides a high-level, activity-neutral framework to calculate abatement from facilities that report under the National Greenhouse and Energy Report scheme, and credits NGER facilities for improvements in their emissions intensity.

Views are being sought on how uptake under the Facilities Method can be increased, while meeting the offsets integrity standards. Public consultation is from 11 June 2019 till 12 July 2019.  The consultation paper can be accessed here.

Reduced daily limits for solar PV installation

To promote safety and integrity in solar PV installation, the Clean Energy Council's guidelines for Grid-Connected Solar PV Systems have been amended to reduce the number of installations and repairs/upgrades an accredited person can sign off on per day. The guidelines outline eligibility requirements for claiming small-scale technology certificates under the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme.  The guidelines will be mandatory from 29 June 2019.

Australian Capital Territory

100% renewables target from 1 January 2020 and climate change emergency declaration

The ACT Government has now set a 100% target for use of renewable energy post-2020.  The target is now embedded in the Climate Change and Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act 2010 which also legislates a zero net greenhouse gas emissions target by 2045. 

New South Wales

No appeal against landmark climate change judgment and no change to assessments

Gloucester Resources Limited will not appeal the Land and Environment Court's decision to refuse consent for its proposed Rocky Hill open-cut coal mine, meaning the decision to refuse the mine on climate change gro8unds will stand.  See here and here for more information.

The NSW Department of Planning has told the Independent Planning Commission that "it does not consider it necessary to change its assessment approach or weighting of emissions impacts" following the refusal by the Land and Environment Court of the Rocky Hill coal mine.

Queensland

Queensland Government preparing new climate policies

The Queensland Government will release a draft paper on post-2020 climate policies in the next few months, with a finalised set of policy proposals to be released by the year's end.  This announcement follows the receipt by the Department of Environment and Science and Queensland Treasury Corporation of Capitalising on Queensland's opportunities in a zero net emissions future, which considers policy needs in response to the risks and opportunities of climate change.

Controversial electrical safety regulation invalidated

The Court of Appeal has confirmed the decision of the Supreme Court that a recently made regulation that would require electrical work on solar farm PV modules to be performed only by licenced electricians is beyond power.  The Supreme Court heard that meeting the requirement would involve a significant increase in costs for constructing solar farms in Queensland.

Hydrogen industry advances

The Queensland Government has reinforced its commitment to developing a sustainable hydrogen industry, releasing the Queensland Hydrogen Industry Strategy 2019-2024.  The Queensland Government will establish an industry development fund to advance renewable hydrogen projects in Queensland, scheduled to open on 1 July 2019.

Victoria

Reducing Victoria's greenhouse gas emissions

The Victorian Government is required to determine emissions reduction targets for 2025 and 2030 by 31 March 2020.  It has received an Independent Expert Panel report which recommends Victoria set targets of 32-39% below 2005 levels in 2025 and 45-60% below 2005 levels in 2030.  The Government is now seeking community input to inform its decision on interim targets.  Public consultation is open until 22 July 2019.

Western Australia

Greenhouse gas guidelines reopened for consultation

The Environmental Protection Authority is now seeking submissions on its proposed greenhouse gas guidelines, to ensure they "provide a robust and effective framework within which the EPA will consider the greenhouse gas emissions of future proposals."  The EPA withdrew its revised Environmental Factor Guideline - Greenhouse Gas Emissions in March this year following public reaction.  Consultation is open until 2 September 2019 with the intention of releasing new guidelines in December 2019.

Sustainable development – regulatory approvals

New South Wales

$300K fine for unauthorised clearing

A family grazing and mixed farming operation has been fined $300,000 and ordered to pay the prosecutor's costs of $40,000 for clearing 320 ha of native vegetation otherwise than in accordance with a development consent. The clearing was determined to have caused harm to the environment and ecological communities, including critically endangered, endangered and vulnerable species.  The penalty was discounted from $400,000 to $300,000 in light of the early guilty plea.

Northern Territory

Changes to regulation of onshore petroleum industry

Prohibitions on water licences for petroleum activities have now commenced, implementing some of the key recommendations of the Final Report of the Scientific Inquiry into Hydraulic Fracturing in the Northern Territory.  The prohibitions relate to the taking of surface water for petroleum activities, taking water from a bore for a petroleum activity that includes hydraulic fracturing close to a landholder's bore, and the release of hydraulic fracturing wastewater to waterways and aquifers.  More information is here and here.  

Queensland

Exempt clearing work may still be regulated by a planning scheme

The Queensland Court of Appeal has confirmed that clearing of vegetation which is exempted from clearing controls under the State legislation may still require a separate approval under a local government planning scheme.  Clearing in an area mapped as category X on the Regulated Vegetation Management Map is exempt from the requirements of the Vegetation Management Act and is defined as "exempt clearing work" under the Planning Regulation.  The Court of Appeal found that while the Planning Regulation did not categorise exempt clearing work as one of prohibited, assessable or accepted development, it is open for another instrument (in this case, the planning scheme) to do so. 

An application for special leave to appeal the Court of Appeal's decision has been filed in the High Court Registry.

New accepted development vegetation clearing codes

Certain low-risk vegetation clearing activities, such as for weed control, may be undertaken under an accepted development clearing code.  The Vegetation Management Act has been amended to approve new accepted development vegetation clearing codes for  managing weeds, managing encroachment, necessary environmental clearing, clearing for infrastructure, clearing for an extractive industry, clearing to improve agricultural efficiency, managing fodder harvesting, and managing regulated regrowth vegetation. 

South Australia

Clarifying activities of environmental significance

Changes to Schedule 1 – Prescribed activities of environmental significance commenced 1 June.  These changes update and clarify language and better describe different waste-related activities requiring approval.

Native vegetation heritage agreement safeguards high value native bushland

Native vegetation in bushland reserves in the Adelaide Hills will be protected in perpetuity under a new native vegetation heritage agreement between the Adelaide Hills Council (the landholder) and the South Australian Government.  Heritage agreements can be made under the Native Vegetation Act to form a conservation area on private land for the for the preservation of enhancement of native vegetation.

Western Australia

Clearing fees to increase

New clearing fees will be introduced on 1 July 2019. The clearing fees have been unchanged since 2004. The Department of Water and Environmental Regulation indicate that the extra resources will lead to improved transparency through publication of data and will improve approval processes and assessment timeliness.

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Disclaimer

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.