In the Courts
Consent orders – Carmichael mine – NSD33/2015 Mackay Conservation Group v Minister for Environment
On 4 August 2015 a judge of the Federal Court issued consent orders setting aside a decision of Environment Minister Hunt under the EPBC Act to approve proposed action to develop an open cut and underground coal mine, rail link and associated infrastructure in central Queensland, subject to certain conditions. The Minister had breached the Act by not having regard to approved conservation advices that were not in the material before him at the time he made his decision when the project would impact on the listed threatened species, the Yakka Skink and the Ornamental Snake. Read more.
Unlicensed waste storage – $28,000 fine
The Victorian EPA has announced that it is has fined VIP Steel Packaging $28,000 after an investigation revealed that waste was being stored at an unlicensed site adjacent to VIP Steel Packaging’s licensed site. Read more.
New South Wales
Waste transport and dumping – $110,000 fine
Bulk haulage company Alcobell Pty Ltd has been convicted in the NSW Land and Environment Court and fined $70,000 for unlawfully transporting waste, including asbestos, from Sydney and depositing it on three properties located near Lithgow between 2010 and 2012: Environment Protection Authority v Alcobell Pty Ltd, Environment Protection Authority v Campbell  NSWLEC 123 (5 August 2015).
EPBC Act injunction hearing
The Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre’s challenge to the Tasmanian Government’s proposal to re-open three 4WD tracks within the nationally listed heritage place, the Western Tasmania Aboriginal Cultural Landscape, will return to Court on 12 October 2015. An application for an interlocutory injunction was granted by the Hon Justice Kerr late last year. A ban on the use of the tracks will remain in place until the outcome of the October hearing, although there have been reports that recreational drivers continue to use the tracks.
Waste water prosecution
On 19 August 2015 Triabunna-based Seafish Tasmania pled guilty to a number of pollution offences in the Magistrates Court under the Environmental Management and Pollution Control Act 1994. The Court found that the company dumped truckloads of waste water at an unnamed creek on Crown Land on a number of occasions causing significant harm to the water quality resulting in the death of marine life. Read more.
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Executive and other policy development
Clean Power Plan
The White House and the United States Environment Protection Agency have jointly released America’s final Clean Power Plan which will establish the first ever national standards to limit the carbon pollution from power plants. The plan sets flexible but achievable targets in order to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 32% from 2005 levels by 2030. According to the Climate Change Authority, the plan could provide a blueprint for other countries on how to reduce emissions quickly and effectively via regulation.
Movable cultural heritage review
The Australian Government’s Ministry for the Arts is consulting on Shane Simpson AM’s review of the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986. Read more.
Advanced environmental offsets
The Australian Government has released a draft policy statement on advanced Environmental Offsets under the EPBC Act to complement its EPBC Act environmental offsets policy and how to use the offsets assessment guide. Advanced environmental offsets are created before environmental impacts occur and are intended for future use, transfer or sale by proponents or offset providers. Advanced offsets are intended to be more efficient and strategic, and to speed-up environmental assessment processes. Comment is invited before 12 October 2015.
Wildlife trade regulation
The Australian Government is considering a proposal to streamline the regulation of trade in wildlife listed on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The two key areas for potential reform include streamlining the processing and issuing of CITES permits to provide greater certainty for commercial wildlife trade, including for the crocodile industry; and personal and household effects provisions for the international movement of specimens listed on Appendix II of CITES. Changes to regulation could have implications for organisations, businesses, governments and individuals involved in wildlife trade and tourism and wildlife conservation. Read more.
The APVMA report Nanotechnologies for pesticides and veterinary medicines: regulatory considerations—final report has been released. The report looks at the benefits and challenges of regulating nanotechnology for use in agriculture and animal husbandry and highlights the key regulatory considerations for agvet chemical nanomaterials, based on the current state of knowledge. Read more.
Review of Australia’s Biodiversity Conservation Strategy 2010–30
Australia is reviewing the first five years of Australia’s Biodiversity Conservation Strategy. Comments are invited by Friday 11 September 2015 on emerging issues, implementation challenges and opportunities to improve the Strategy. Read more.
Pesticide run off – Aquatic exposure estimates
The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority invites comments by 21 September 2015 on a proposed framework for environmental assessment of pesticide run-off in dryland cropping regions. This assessment aims to reduce the risk that using pesticides in these regions has on nearby water sources. Read more.
Environmental Outcomes-Based Conditions Policy – draft
The Australian Government has developed policy and guidance on outcomes-based conditions under the EPBC Act which aim to achieve environmental outcomes in a less prescriptive way to encourage innovation, at a lowest cost, and with more transparency. Public comments are due by 5 October 2015. Read more.
Threatened species summit
On 16 July 2015, the Environment Minister Greg Hunt MP hosted a Threatened Species Summit chaired by the Threatened Species Commissioner, Mr Gregory Andrews. A Threatened Species Strategy was released with a $6.6M funding commitment. For more information see: Chair's summary or watch online.
Meeting of Environment Ministers
On 15 July 2015 federal, state and territory Environment Ministers met to progress issues of national environmental significance, including
a National Clean Air Agreement that aims to reduce air pollution and promote inter-jurisdictional cooperation;
a national recovery plan for koalas – the Commonwealth and Victoria will co-lead work on national koala translocation guidelines, consistent with the koala recovery plan and in consultation with relevant jurisdictions. The focus is on health, welfare and the genetic implications of translocations; and
a national declaration on feral cats – all states and territories agreed to review and remove unnecessary barriers to the effective and humane control of feral cats.
Watermark coal project – NSW – EPBC Act approval
On 21 August 2015 Australian Government Minister for the Environment, the Hon Greg Hunt MP, released a Statement of Reasons for his EPBC Act approval of the Shenhua Watermark Coal mine project (Shenhua). The mine is on the Liverpool Plains, approximately 25 km south-east of Gunnedah, in north-western NSW. The open cut mine will extract 10 million tonnes of coal a year in an area known for its fertile and highly valuable agricultural soils. Three extraction pits will be constructed, mined and rehabilitated throughout the 30-year life of the mine.
On 4 July 2015 18 conditions attached to the approval were released.
The NSW Planning Assessment Commission approved the project in January 2015. The project has been subject to four expert reviews and two reviews by the Independent Expert Scientific Committee (a committee set up to provide scientific advice to decision makers on the impact that coal seam gas and large coal mining development may have on Australia's water resources). The public submission process for the project’s Environmental Impact Statement received 133 submissions. The key issues raised included the management of water resources, the impacts of noise and dust, and the mine's effect on Box Gum Woodlands, koala populations and Aboriginal heritage. The decision to approve the mine was met with substantial media and community attention. Read more.
On 28 July 2015 Oxfam Australia launched a new report Powering up against poverty: why renewable energy is the future. The Report makes a number of important findings, including:
climate change impacts are hitting the poorest communities the hardest;
increasing coal consumption is incompatible with protecting the rights and interests of poor communities in developing countries; and
addressing climate change and alleviating poverty can and indeed must go hand in hand.
The Report considers alternative methods of reducing emissions, including carbon capture and storage and replacing coal with natural gas. It also provides recommendations about how Australia could be a world leader in tackling global climate change. Read more.
New South Wales
Integrated Mining Policy (IMP)
The NSW Government invites comment until 7 September 2015 on its stage two consultation on the Integrated Mining Policy invites comments on Planning Agreement Guidelines, Post-approval Guideline - Annual Review, Post-approval Guideline – Web-based reporting, Post-approval Guideline - Independent Audits and Water Regulation and Policy (summary document). Read more.
Federal submission to Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission
The Australian Government’s submission to the Royal Commission into the Nuclear Fuel Cycle in South Australia has been released. The submission emphasises the importance of a robust, stable and predictable regulatory system to give the community confidence that risks associated with nuclear fuel can be effectively managed throughout the process. The submission can be accessed here.
Small Pelagic Fisheries advisory body disbanded
The Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) has decided not to reappoint the members of the Small Pelagic Fishery Resource Assessment Group (SPFRAG). The SPFRAG provided advice and recommendations to the AFMA including the AFMA Commission on the status of target stocks, harvest rates and total allowable catches, and the impact of fishing on the marine environment.
The AFMA will review alternative ways to seek the advice on the management of the Small Pelagic Fisheries (SPF). Key decisions regarding the management of the SPF, such as setting total allowable catches for the 2015-16 fishing year, were made by the AFMA Commission in April. The AFMA Commission will make a decision on how it will receive future scientific advice on the SPF next month.
Wellington Park Management Trust – cable car amendment criticism
The Tasmanian Planning Commission has handed down its report on the proposed amendments to the Wellington Park Management Plan 2013, requested by the Mount Wellington Cableway Company. The proposed amendments would facilitate the construction of the cable car on Mount Wellington, in Hobart. The Commission’s report was very critical of the Wellington Park Management Trust’s process in relation to the amendment, finding that the Trust had not adequately addressed concerns raised by representations. The Wellington Park Management Trust will now have an opportunity to further amend the Plan to address the Commission's recommendations before the final amended Plan is submitted to the Governor for approval.
Unconventional gas – report
The Victorian Auditor-General has released its report into the potential for an unconventional gas industry in the State, concluding that Victoria is not as well placed as it could be to respond to the environmental and community risks and impacts that may arise if the moratorium on coal seam gas exploration and development is lifted. The report also makes a number of recommendations and can be accessed here.
Kalbarri National Park 10-year plan
The WA State Government has released a 10-year management plan for Kalbarri National Park to guide recreation, tourism and the protection of biodiversity and cultural. It includes key performance indicators for managing flora and fauna, threatened species, fire, weeds, pest animals and the protection of cultural and historic heritage. Read more.
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Environmental law PhD scholarships
The University of Tasmania’s Faculty of Law and Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies are seeking national and international applicants for a PhD scholarships in:
climate change law and governance
international environmental law and governance
Antarctic law and governance
ocean law and governance
geoengineering law and governance; or
climate change justice.
The scholarship provides $25,849 per annum over 3 years and includes some relocation funding and a waiver of tuition fees. High quality students with honours (or equivalent) undergraduate degrees in law, international relations and/or environmental studies are invited to apply by 30th September 2015. Read more.
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