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May 2017 Bulletin


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This month

NELA news and events
01. NELA National Conference: Addressing Past Harm, Managing Future Risks

Law and policy developments
03. In the Legislature
04. Policy developments and other news
05. In the courts
06. Open for comment
07. Opportunities

08. (Melbourne & Sydney) EDO NT Art Auction
09. (Sydney) Contaminated land - Emerging Pollutants and Property Transactions
10. (Melbourne) Environmental and Carbon Obligations
11. (Sydney) Australasian Groundwater Conference
12. (Brisbane) NELA National Conference – Addressing Past Harm, Managing Future Risks
13. (Brisbane) CASANZ 2017: The Critical Atmosphere



NELA news and events

NELA National Conference, 4 August 2017: Addressing Past Harm, Managing Future Risks

The 2017 National Conference brings together a range of experts to discuss the state of Australia’s environment, how various States are addressing past impacts, and innovative mechanisms being explored to avoid future harm.

Examining mining rehabilitation, groundwater management, climate risk disclosure, native title, sustainable business practices and much more, this is an event not to be missed.

Key speakers include:

  • Dr Bill Jackson, lead author of Australia’s State of the Environment Report 2016
  • Fleur Kingham, president of the Land Court of Queensland
  • Saul Holt QC, discussing economic and environmental evidence in climate litigation
  • Sarah Barker, Special Counsel, discussing climate risk disclosure obligations
  • Greg McIntyre SC, Mabo counsel, discussing native title in Australia since that historic decision
  • Prof Ben Richardson, discussing opportunities for business law to encourage better environmental performance

The full programme will be available soon. Registrations open 24 May 2017, click here.

NELA extends our thanks to conference sponsors, King & Wood Mallesons, for their support.


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Law and policy development

In the Legislature

New South Wales

Bill to clarify EPA drone powers

The NSW Environment Minister has introduced the Protection of the Environment Legislation Miscellaneous Amendments Bill 2017. The Bill amends existing laws to confirm EPA powers to use drones and GPS vehicle tracking devices to collect evidence, extends the time limit for groundwater contamination prosecutions to three years, allows ‘repeat’ waste offences to occur up to three years apart, and increases penalties under the Radiation Control Act 1990.

To read the Bill, click here.



Bill to give Treasurer power to cap power prices

On 2 May 2017, Treasurer, Hon Peter Gutwein MP, introduced the Electricity Supply Industry Amendment (Pricing) Bill 2017. The Bill proposes to allow the Treasurer to set an alternative wholesale electricity price if he considers that the price determined by the Tasmanian Economic Regulator will be unsustainable for residential and small business customers.

For more information about the Bill, click here



Bill aims to deliver better solutions to gas disputes

On 10 May 2017, Natural Resources Minister, Dr Anthony Lynham, introduced the Gasfields Commission and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2017.

Under the Bill the Gasfields Commission will no longer resolve disputes between gas companies and other landowners, instead developing “strategies that build better relationships” and encouraging the disclosure of information on health and well-being concerns.  Disputes will be resolved by a Land Access Ombudsman, a statutory office which the government intends to establish later in the year.

The Bill also seeks to amend the Biodiscovery Act 2004 to establish broad benefit sharing agreements for the collection and use of natural resources for commercial products (such as pharmaceuticals).

The Bill has been referred to the Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources Committee for review.  To read the Bill and explanatory notes, click here.


Changes to species listings

Changes to the Nature Conservation (Wildlife) Regulation 2006 were made on 12 May 2017 which add a range of species to threatened species lists, or alter their threat category.  Species affected include the eastern curlew, ghost bat and hawksbill turtle.

For more information about the changes, click here.


Groundwater management provisions commence

The remaining uncommenced provisions of the Environmental Protection (Underground Water Management) and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2016 took effect on 9 May 2017.

For more information about the amendments, click here.


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Policy developments and other news


New database maps climate laws and litigation activity around the world

The Grantham Research Institute and the Sabin Center have released two databases:

  • Climate Change Laws of the World, covering national-level climate change legislation and policies in 164 countries
  • Climate Change Litigation of the World, featuring climate litigation cases from 25 countries. The dataset does not include the United States, but a separate collation of US based data is available here.  

For details about methodology and scope, as well as a report on trends in litigation and legislation in 2017, click here.



Federal Budget 2017-2018

The Federal Budget released on 9 May 2017 made only limited reference to environmental matters. Key impacts include:

  • Reduced allocation of funding to the Climate Change Authority, and commitment to wind up the agency “within the life of the current Parliament”
  • Increased allocation for abatement purchases
  • Additional $86.3M to accelerate onshore gas production, including EIAs for impacts of proposed unconventional gas fields on groundwater and feasibility studies for pipelines
  • Continued discussion of Federal take-over of Snowy Hydro scheme to progress pumped hydro capacity
  • $110M investment in solar thermal project in Port Augusta
  • $12.5M for a national research program to study the health effects of PFAS chemicals
  • No funding for the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility from 2018-2019
  • $13.4M for CSIRO to complete an online energy-use data model for regulators and industry.

To view the full Environment Portfolio budget papers, click here.


Senate inquiry into climate impacts on building

The Environment and Communications References Committee is conducting an inquiry into “The Current and Future Impacts of Climate Change on Housing, Buildings and Infrastructure”.  The inquiry will consider a range of issues, including resilience of existing housing stock, sewerage, transport and energy infrastructure to future storm events, coastal erosion, and heatwaves.

The Committee will report back by 23 November 2017.  Submissions to the inquiry will open soon.  For more information about the inquiry, click here.


Report released following Senate inquiry into carbon risk disclosure

The Senate Economics References Committee has released a report following its inquiry into carbon risk disclosure: Carbon risk, a burning issue. In the report, the Committee accepts that climate change, along with the challenge of transition to a lower carbon world, present material risks to Australian businesses.

The Committee noted that carbon risk disclosure is not undertaken consistently in Australia and concluded that there is benefit to streamlining disclosure of climate risk so that it is consistent, reliable, comparable and clear. In particular, the Committee recommended that ASIC and ASX provide explicit guidance on disclosure requirements.

To read the report, click here.


Senate Committee reports on Carbon Credits amendments

The Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming Initiative) Amendment Bill 2017 was referred to the Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee in March 2017. The Bill amends the Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming Initiative) Act 2011 to change consent, reporting and liability requirements for emissions-avoidance projects (particularly savanna fire management). Most controversially, the Bill seeks to remove the obligation to obtain the consent of native title holders for such projects and empowers Commonwealth and State lands ministers to consent to projects on exclusive possession native title land.

On 9 May 2017, the Committee released its report, splitting along party lines.  The majority report from Liberal Senators recommended that the Bill be passed, while Labor Senators, though broadly supportive of other amendments, did not support the removal of consent requirements from native title holders.  The Australian Greens also did not support removing consent and recommended that consent requirements be extended to all registered native title claimants. 

To read the report, click here.


Funding available for threatened species protection

Applications are open for grants from the Threatened Species Recovery Fund for community projects to protect threatened species. The competitive funding round provides grants between $20,000 and $250,000. Applications close on 15 June 2017.

For more information, click here.


New South Wales

Questions over accuracy of NPI emissions data for NSW power plants

On 14 May 2017, Environmental Justice Australia alleged five coal-fired power plants in NSW (including the Mt Piper, Eraring, Bayswater and Vales Point plants) had significantly under-reported emissions.  The group claimed that the plants’ reported reductions in emissions from previous years could not have been achieved, given the emission controls used and electricity produced from the facilities. 

The NSW EPA is investigating the reports of coal-blending to reduce reporting requirements.

In November 2016, the National Environment Protection Council announced terms of reference for a review of the National Pollutant Inventory to be undertaken in 2017.  To date, no further progress has been made in relation to that review.


Audit of mine rehabilitation deposits

The NSW Auditor-General has released a performance audit report regarding mining rehabilitation security deposits, concluding that, while the total quantum and management of deposits has improved since 2005, the deposits currently held are not likely to be sufficient to cover the full costs of each mine’s rehabilitation in the event of a default.

The report makes a number of recommendations regarding improvement of rehabilitation plans, calculating security deposits and enhancing oversight.

To read the report, click here.


Ombudsman report on asbestos management

Acting NSW Ombudsman, Professor John McMillan, has released a report commending NSW’s best-practice approach to asbestos management, but noting that further improvements should be made. 

Recommended changes include introducing a specific Asbestos Act to ensure all situations requiring management were covered by legislation, designating the EPA and an Asbestos Authority as regulators, and ensuring that land containing friable asbestos was designated as contaminated.

To read Asbestos: How NSW government agencies deal with the problem, click here.



Revised biomass cap for Macquarie Harbour, but companies able to exceed

On 5 May 2017, the EPA Director issued a draft determination reducing the overall biomass cap for Macquarie Harbour from 1 June 2017 to 12,000t, allowing each of the three salmon companies farming in the harbour to stock their leases at 13t/ha (excluding Tassal's Franklin lease, which is to remain empty).

The Director was satisfied that the reduced biomass cap was necessary, as recent IMAS data shows the harbour is “under a level of stress that may not be sustainable in the long term.”  Two recent mass fish mortalities highlight the need for caution.

Despite this finding, the Director’s determination allows companies who install an “approved waste collection system” to stock up to 28t/ha until the 2017 harvest is complete. The “approved waste collection system”, effectively a tarpaulin installed beneath pens allowing fish waste to be collected and removed, is currently untested and will need to be assessed by the EPA. 

To read the Director's statement of reasons, click here.

For an overview of recent activity in relation to Macquarie Harbour, click here


Forest Growth Plan released

The Forestry Ministerial Advisory Council has presented its Strategic Growth Plan for the Tasmanian Forests, Fine Timber and Wood Fibre Industry to the Minister for Resources, Hon Guy Barnett MP. The plan addresses a range of issues regarding community expectations, research, access to resources and encouraging investment.

Among other recommendations, the Plan recommends that the Government develop "an agreed and stable forest industry policy" and understand "the environmental, social and economic implications, prior to any decision of Parliament on changes to the production forest estate (increases or decreases)." 

The controversial Forestry (Unlocking Production Forests) Bill 2017, which seeks to allow access to forests previously reserved under the Tasmanian Forests Agreement, was withdrawn from the Legislative Council list of Bills during the last sitting.


Western Australia

Environment agencies amalgamated

New Premier, Mark McGowan, has announced the following amalgamations of the State’s key agencies:

  • The Department of Water, the Department of Environment Regulation, and the Office of the EPA will be merged into a new Department of Water and Environmental Regulation.
  • The Department of Mines and Petroleum and the Department of Commerce will be combined into a new Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety.
  • The Department of Parks and Wildlife, the Botanical Gardens and Parks Authority, the Zoo, and the Rottnest Island Authority will be merged into a new Department of Biodiversity Conservation and Attractions.
  • The Department of Planning, the Department of Lands, and the State Heritage Office will be amalgamated into a new Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage.


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In the courts


Suit against Trump’s offshore drilling plans

Client Earth has filed a suit in an Alaskan court challenging President Trump’s proposal to reverse permanent protections of Arctic and Atlantic ocean areas against future oil and gas leases enacted by President Obama.

For details of the proceeding, click here.


Western Australia

Eclipse loses waste levy appeal

Eclipse Resources Pty Ltd has lost its appeal against a Supreme Court decision that it was liable for over $10 million in unpaid landfill levies. The quarrying company, which had received material to fill voids at three sites following extraction of quarry material, argued that the material was not “waste” as it served a purpose of making the site suitable for future use.

The Court of Appeal unanimously found that the material placed in the voids was sent to Eclipse as waste and was not transformed into a useful product.  The sites accepted the material for burial, and were therefore liable for waste levies.  The Court also dismissed Eclipse’s argument that the levy was unconstitutional.

The decision could make developers using more than 500t of waste-derived fill to alter land heights potentially liable for levy payments in future. 

To read the case, click here.  For a summary of the decision, click here.


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Open for comment


Future of Australian Environmental Laws - technical reports released

The Australian Panel of Experts on Environmental Law has drafted eight technical papers outlining a series of recommended reforms to ensure Australia's suite of environmental laws are as transparent, efficient, effective and participatory as possible.  

Comments on the papers are invited until 2 June 2017.  To read the papers, click here



Loss of hollow-bearing trees

The Scientific Committee of the ACT is considering nominating the loss of native hollow-bearing trees as a ‘Key Threatening Process’ under the Nature Conservation Act 2014.

Comments on the proposed nomination can be made until 9 June 2017.  For more information, click here.


New South Wales

Biodiversity Regulations and supporting documents

The NSW government has released draft regulations and policies to support the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 and Local Land Services Amendment Act 2016. The draft regulations deal with matters including private land conservation agreements, biodiversity offsets and biodiversity certification, while supporting documents outline biodiversity assessment measures, an offset calculator and guidance on what constitutes serious and irreversible harm.

Comments on the draft resources can be made until 21 June 2017. For more information, click here.


Draft management plans for parks and reserves

The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service is seeking feedback on the following draft management plans:

Comments are also invited in relation to the draft Shaws Creek Conservation Program.  Comments close 2 June 2017.



Review of Environmental Protection (Water) Policy

The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection is seeking comments on the draft environmental values and water quality objectives for Queensland waters under the Environmental Protection (Water) Policy 2009.  The review addresses Great Barrier Reef coastal waters and contributing catchments, Queensland Murray-Darling and Bulloo Basin waters, and South East Queensland waters.

Comments can be made until 31 May 2017.  For more information, click here.


Better Mine Rehabilitation for Queensland discussion paper

The Queensland Government has released a discussion paper outlining its proposed mine rehabilitation policy and six elements to deliver an integrated mined land management framework.

Comments on the paper can be made until 15 June 2017. For more information, click here.


Review of the Wet Tropics Management Plan 1998

The Wet Tropics Management Authority is reviewing the Wet Tropics Management Plan 1998. The Plan regulates activities within the World Heritage area, which may have an impact on World Heritage values and integrity.

Comment on the review can be made until 15 June 2017. For more information, click here.


South Australia

Energy security target

The South Australian government has proposed a certificate trading scheme, designed to improve energy security by achieving 4,500GWh / year from clean generators (gas and renewables) that can withstand extreme events, with the aim of increasing the annual target to 6,000GWh by 2024.

The proposed scheme will be administered by the Essential Services Commission under the Electricity (General) Regulations 2012.

Comments on the proposed target and legal mechanisms to achieve it can be made until 26 May 2017.  To find out more, click here


Management Plan for the Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary

The Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources is seeking comments on where the boundaries of the Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary should be, and what should be considered in the management plan.

Submissions can be made until 31 May 2017.  For more information, click here.


State Natural Resources Management Plan

The Natural Resources Management Plan 2012-2017 was adopted to achieve the goals and objects of the Natural Resources Management Act 2004.  The plan is currently being reviewed, with submissions invited on the direction that a revised Plan should take.

Submissions can be made until 31 May 2017.  For more information, click here.


Park Management Plans

The Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources is seeking feedback on draft management plans for the following national parks and reserves:

  • Ngaut Ngaut Conservation Park (comments due 22 May 2017)

  • Innamincka Regional Reserve (comments due 6 June 2017)

  • Witjira National Park (comments due 9 June 2017)

  • Tallaringa Conservation Park (submissions close 14 July 2017)

For more information, click here.


Northern and Yorke Catchment Action Plans

Submissions are invited on the development of Catchment Action Plans for the Willochra, Broughton, Wakefield and Light Catchments. 

The completed Willochra and Broughton Draft Plans have been released for public comment, while general feedback regarding the yet to be finalised Wakefield and Light Draft Plans can be made via an online survey.

Submissions and survey responses can be made until 30 June 2017.  For more information, click here.



Draft Biosecurity Bill 2017

The Tasmanian Government has released the draft Biosecurity Bill 2017, seeking to replace a range of existing laws addressing aspects of biosecurity with a single piece of legislation.

Comments on the draft Bill can be made until 2 June 2017. For more information, click here.



AgVet Regulations 2017

The current Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals (Control of Use) Regulations 2007 will expire on 24 July 2017.  The Victorian Government has released draft replacement Regulations, which make only limited amendments to the current framework.

Comments on the draft Regulations can be made until 23 May 2017.  For more information, click here.


Coastal Strategic Framework for former Alcoa site

Following closure of Alcoa’s aluminium smelter and rolling mill at Point Henry, the Victorian Government is preparing a Moolap Coastal Strategic Framework Plan to set the future strategic direction for use of the area.

Comments on the draft Strategic Framework can be made until 31 May 2017.  For more information, click here.

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Australian Academy of Law Essay Prize

The topic for this year’s essay is: How well do Australian legal institutions respond to climate change? How could that response be improved?

Any judicial officers, legal practitioners, legal academics and law students are eligible to submit an essay addressing the topic, and be in the running for a $10,000 prize.

If you intend to submit an essay, you will need to submit an expression of interest by 30 June 2017.  Final essays must then be submitted by 31 August 2017.

To find out more about the prize, click here.


Funded Environmental Law PhD

Full scholarships are being offered by the Research Institute of Environmental Law (RIEL) to support students to enrol in the Institute’s English-language PhD Program.

Suitably qualified persons from all countries are encouraged to apply. Research is supported in all areas of environmental law, whether focused on China or not.

Expressions of interest in RIEL’s PhD Program should be sent in the first instance to Professor Alexander Zahar, Luojia Distinguished Professor, Research Institute of Environmental Law, Wuhan University: zahar.edu@gmail.com.

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Events offered by NELA’s partners (marked Header) can provide substantial savings for NELA members - so check them out and make the most of your NELA membership!


(Melbourne & Sydney) EDO NT Art Auction

The third annual EDO NT fundraising auction of amazing Aboriginal artwork is underway. Online bidding concludes on 22 June 2017, proceeded by auction events that evening in Sydney and Melbourne.

Sydney: Gilbert and Tobin

Melbourne:  Arnold Bloch Leibler

To view the art and make a bid, click here.


(Sydney) Contaminated land - Emerging Pollutants and Property Transactions 

This workshop, hosted by the Australian Sustainable Business Group, is specifically aimed at updating land owners, environmental professionals and others dealing in contaminated land management on current issues.

When:  25 May 2017, 8:20am
Where: Henry Davis York, L10, 44 Martin Place

For more information, click here.


(Melbourne) Environmental and Carbon Obligations 

Join the Australian Environment Business Network for a seminar examining changes to environmental and carbon obligations expected to take effect from mid-2017.

When: 16 June 2017, 8:45am

Where:  HWL Ebsworth, Lvl 26, 530 Collins St

For more information, click here.


(Sydney) Australasian Groundwater Conference  

Join the UNSW Global Water Institute for a gathering of experts to discuss emerging groundwater issues, climate change impacts, human health assessments and interdisciplinary approaches to groundwater management.

When:  11 – 13 July 2017

Where: UNSW Kensington Campus

For more information, click here.


Header(Brisbane) NELA National Conference – Addressing Past Harm, Managing Future Risks

The theme for this year’s NELA National Conference is Addressing Past Harm, Managing Future Risks.

Hear from experts including Dr Bill Jackson, Fleur Kingham, Sarah Barker, Saul Holt QC, Greg McIntyre SC, Matthew Austin and Professor Ben Richardson about the state of Australia’s environment, how various States are addressing past impacts, and innovative mechanisms being explored to avoid future harm.

When:  4 August 2017

Where:  King & Wood Mallesons, Brisbane

The full programme will be available soon. Registrations open 24 May 2017, click here.

(Brisbane) CASANZ 2017:  The Critical Atmosphere

This year’s Clean Air Society conference examines the effects of climate change on human health and wellbeing demands that we understand more about the physical and chemical processes underlying air quality, their effects on human health and welfare, and our capacity to effectively control and regulate air pollution.

When: 15 – 18 October 2017

Where: Pullman Hotel, Brisbane

For more information, click here.


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The NELA Bulletin is researched and written entirely by volunteers. NELA thanks this month’s contributors:

  • Jess Feehely, EDO Tasmania - editor
  • Ebony Holland – contributor, Cth
  • Emily Long – contributor, Victoria   
  • Wildaliz de Jesus – contributor, Qld, NSW and SA
  • Sarah Wilson – contributor, Tas