(EPOLA) Bill | New laws to strengthen environmental framework

A new bill has been introduced into Queensland’s parliament to ensure the state’s environmental framework remains modern by enabling greater consultation on resource projects, ensuring Environmental Impact Statements remain up-to-date, and providing early certainty on clearly unacceptable projects.

This bill aims to protect our environment and support the industry by streamlining and providing greater certainty on project proposal processes and ensuring the independent regulator can continue to be effective in its role.

The problem

All projects go through a lengthy and expensive process to complete an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to ensure that our delicate environs are not severely impacted by human activities. The problem arises when these projects fail to gain public approval or are found to contradict existing environmental protection laws after the EIS has been put in place.

Furthermore, public consultation with stakeholders revealed that in some instances, EISs upwards of 10 years old were being relied upon for project proposals, often with outdated information on the region’s ecology and environmental health.

This bill will modernise the framework so that EISs remain current for three years, at which point proponents can apply to extend the period.

The solution

Environment Minister Meaghan Scanlon introduced the Environmental Protection and Other Legislation Amendment (EPOLA) Bill last month after public consultation to attempt to solve these problems.

Minister Scanlon said that with community expectations, technology and industry are evolving to determine the health and impacts on our environs and it is vital that our laws remain modern and reflect the changes we’re seeing.

“Making sure that we have certainty for landowners and industry while also making sure that we continue to protect our environment is critical to creating good jobs and protecting our great lifestyle,” says Minister Scanlon.

What does this mean?

Minister Scanlon says she believes the reforms will provide greater certainty for the community and industry, including a proposed change that would allow the Department of Environment and Science to stop the development of an expensive Environmental Impact Statement and directly veto project proposals that are clearly damaging to the environment or are against existing laws.

“This will be done by introducing an ‘early no’ step in the EIS process so that community and project proponents know early in the piece that a project will not receive approvals as proposed, saving the industry and the regulator time and money,” she says.

“Under the proposed legislation, we’re also making sure that public notification occurs for any major amendments to environmental authorities for resource-sector projects to make sure local communities are aware and can have their say.”

This bill also includes updates on the liability of responsible officers and directors should the environmental impact exceed what is acceptable in the region, agreed upon in the EIS.

The bill is now open to consultation through the committee process of parliament.

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