The Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association (APPEA) believes the Independent Review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) provides an important pathway to more efficient environmental approvals processes.
On July 20, the Interim Report of the Independent Review EPBC Act was released, with Professor Graeme Samuel saying the report was released part way through the review as an opportunity to share and test thinking.
“The EPBC Act is ineffective. It does not enable the Commonwealth to protect and conserve environmental matters that are important for the nation. It is not fit to address current or future environmental challenges,” Samuel said.
APPEA chief executive officer Andrew McConville said the recommendation for consistent national environmental standards to focus on outcomes rather than process would help improve environmental protection while supporting businesses’ needs.
In its submission, APPEA stated that exploration and production operations in Australia were conducted within a wide range of terrestrial and marine environments, with these operations requiring effective management in order to be sustainable.
“While we still need time to consider the Interim Report in detail, the headline recommendations are a welcome outcome for both improved environmental protection while reducing the costly regulatory burden to business. The approach proposed should help improve outcomes for all stakeholders and today’s report is a step in the right direction,” McConville said.
“This is a once in a decade opportunity to get it right. We are encouraged by the discussions we’ve had with environment groups during the review process and we are committed to continuing to work with these groups and the government as the process plays out.”
McConville said overlapping requirements between states and the Commonwealth and widespread duplication of processes between the Commonwealth and states did not help to protect the environment, but increased the costs for development.
Samuel emphasised that the EPBC Act had failed to fulfil its objectives as they relate to Indigenous Australians.
“Sustained engagement with Indigenous Australians is needed to properly co-design reforms that are important to them,” Samuel said.
“Extra effort is needed to invest in improving the condition of the environment. This means the EPBC Act needs a firmer focus on avoiding impacts where possible and increasing the area of nationally important habitats. This will allow future development to be sustainable.”
Samuel’s final report, including recommendations to government, is due to be delivered to the Minister for the Environment by October 31, 2020.