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August 2017 Bulletin

 

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This month


NELA news and events
01. NELA (WA) State Conference: Compliance, Enforcement and Emerging Risk in Environmental Law
02. NELA National Conference
03. NELA Essay Competition
04. Membership

 
Law and policy developments

05. In the Legislature
06. Policy developments and other news
07. In the courts
08. Open for comment

 
Events

09. (Perth) NRM and Coastal Conference: Adapting in a Changing World
10. (Perth) NRM and Coastal Conference: Adapting in a Changing World
11. (Perth) NELA (WA) State Conference: Compliance, Enforcement and Emerging Risk in Environmental Law
12. (Sydney) National Energy Summit: Can We Solve the Crisis?
13. (Brisbane) CASANZ 2017: The Critical Atmosphere
14. (Canberra) Biodiversity Offsets: are they working in the ACT?
15. (Hobart) Imagining a Different Future: Overcoming Barriers to Climate Justice

 


NELA news and events

NELA (WA) State Conference: Compliance, Enforcement and Emerging Risk in Environmental Law

Don’t miss the 2017 NELA (WA) State Conference on 1 September 2017 at the Parmelia Hilton Hotel. The annual conference, this year focusing on compliance, enforcement and emerging risks in environmental law, offers an opportunity to network with a broad range of environmental professionals, while exploring issues relevant to the development of environmental law and policy.

The keynote address Access to Justice for ESD in WA: Whether ‘tis Nobler to Establish an Environmental Court will be delivered by Christine Trenorden, Honorary Professor UCL Australia, Board Member of the EPA South Australia, and former Senior Judge of the Environment Resources and Development Court and District Courts of South Australia. The full program can be found here.

Delegates can register here for the full day conference, including lunch and evening cocktail function, or a range of half day and student registration packages.

 

NELA National Conference

Thank you to everyone who attended the recent NELA National Conference in Brisbane on 4 August 2017. Conference papers and presentations are available here.

NELA thanks all the wonderful speakers, and King & Wood Mallesons for their invaluable support for the event.  Stay tuned for details of the 2018 venue!

 

NELA Essay Competition

The NELA Essay Competition is now open, seeking essays addressing issues facing Australian environmental law from undergraduate and postgraduate students at Australian universities.

Essays can be submitted until 18 December 2017.  For guidelines and submission details, click here.

 

Membership

Have you renewed your NELA membership yet? To join or renew, click here.

 

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Law and policy development

In the Legislature

Queensland

Report into Waste Reduction and Recycling Bill released

The Agriculture and Environment Committee has completed its report into the Waste Reduction and Recycling Amendment Bill 2017.  The Bill seeks to introduce a ban on lightweight plastic bags, a container deposit scheme, and to enable greater control of recycled resources.

The report recommends that the Bill be passed, subject to amendments to include a recycling industry representative on the board of the Product Responsibility Organisation. The report also recommends that benchmarks be set for the operation of the Container Refund Scheme, and that the Minister be required to report against the benchmarks within two years of the scheme commencing.

 

South Australia

Waste Reform Bill strengthens financial assurance and false information provisions

The SA Government has introduced the Environment Protection (Waste Reform) Amendment Bill 2017.  The Bill proposes a range of powers to allow the EPA to manage waste issues, including by encouraging waste recovery and re-use, imposing limits on stockpiling, and confirming that stockpiling of waste can constitute pollution.

The Bill also seeks to introduce a maximum penalty of two years' imprisonment for providing false or misleading information, and to expand the types of financial assurances that the EPA can require from businesses to include insurance policies, letters of credit and other approved security.

 

Greens Bill to require Biodiversity Policy

A private member’s bill introduced by Greens MLC, Mark Parnell, seeks to require the government to make a State Planning Policy on Biodiversity under the Planning, Development and Instructure Act.  The making of a Biodiversity Planning Policy was a core recommendation of the Environment, Resources and Development Committee’s review into biodiversity management in the State.

To read the Planning, Development and Infrastructure (State Planning Policy) (Biodiversity) Amendment Bill, click here.

 

Landfill levy removed for asbestos waste

Effective from 1 July 2017, the Environment Protection Regulations 2009 set new waste levies for various waste products and disposal sites in South Australia.  No levy will be payable on packaged asbestos, a move designed to encourage safe disposal at approved depots or landfill sites rather than illegal dumping.

To read more, click here.

 

Tasmania

Regional Forest Agreement extended

On 18 August 2017, the Tasmanian and Federal governments signed a variation to the Tasmanian Regional Forest Agreement to extend its operation by 20 years, with a rolling series of 5 year extensions to be effected after that period. The Tasmanian RFA is the first to be rolled over, with other RFAs due to expire over the coming 2 years.

To read more, click here.

 

Finfish Farming Environmental Regulation Bill

The Minister for Primary Industries has introduced the Finfish Farming Environmental Regulation Bill 2017. The Bill formally transfers responsibility for environmental regulation to the EPA, creates a new Environmental Licence to regulate farming operations and allows marine areas to be declared “marine farming exclusion zones.”

 

Natural Resources Management Amendment Bill

The Natural Resources Management Amendment Bill was introduced on 17 August 2017. The Bill seeks to remove the Tasmanian Natural Resource Management Council, and instead allow the Minister to form special purpose expert committees to advise the government as needed.

 

South Australia

Energy Security Target delayed

The SA Government has deferred the commencement of its Energy Security Target, initially intended to take effect on 1 July 2017, until 1 January 2018.  The delay will allow the government time to clarify the Federal Government’s response to the Finkel Review proposal for a Clean Energy Target and determine how the Energy Security Target can complement any national approach.

For more information, click here.

 

Tasmania

Regional Forest Agreement extended

On 18 August 2017, the Tasmanian and Federal governments signed a variation to the Tasmanian Regional Forest Agreement to extend its operation by 20 years, with a rolling series of 5 year extensions to be effected after that period. The Tasmanian RFA is the first to be rolled over, with other RFAs due to expire over the coming 2 years.

To read more, click here.

 

Finfish Farming Environmental Regulation Bill

The Minister for Primary Industries has introduced the Finfish Farming Environmental Regulation Bill 2017. The Bill formally transfers responsibility for environmental regulation to the EPA, creates a new Environmental Licence to regulate farming operations and allows marine areas to be declared “marine farming exclusion zones.”

 

Natural Resources Management Amendment Bill

The Natural Resources Management Amendment Bill was introduced on 17 August 2017. The Bill seeks to remove the Tasmanian Natural Resource Management Council, and instead allow the Minister to form special purpose expert committees to advise the government as needed.

 

Victoria

EPA reform bill passes lower house

The Environment Protection Bill 2017, a Bill aimed at “modernising the EPA” by establishing a new governance structure for the regulator, was passed by the Legislative Assembly on 10 August 2017. The Bill will be introduced to the Legislative Council in coming weeks.

The Bill follows an independent review of the EPA in 2016 recommending a suite of changes.  The Victorian Government has committed to introducing a second Bill reforming the regulatory framework in line with the review’s recommendations.

 

Inter-state waste transfer rules weakened

The Environment Protection (Industrial Waste Resource) Amendment Regulations 2017, gazetted on 11 July 2017, amends the requirements for inter-state transportation of solid industrial waste.  While the previous regulation required the Minister to be satisfied that the inter-state facility receiving the waste had “better environmental performance standards” than those imposed in Victoria, the amended regulations require only that the environmental standards be “equal to” those in Victoria.

The amendments follow ResourceCo’s High Court challenge to the previous regulations.

 

Energy efficiency scheme to include upgrades at previously excluded sites

The Energy Efficiency Target Amendment (Scheme Acquisition and Creation of Certificates) Regulations 2017 took effect on 1 August 2017, allowing a wider range of large energy-using sites to create tradeable certificates through approved efficiency upgrades.

 

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Policy developments and other news

International

Rio Doce Panel being established

The IUCN is establishing an Independent Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel (ISTAP) to provide technical guidance for the restoration of the Rio Doce watershed in Brazil. In November 2015, the Fundão tailings dam at the Samarco mine in the State of Minas Gerais, Brazil, failed, claiming 19 lives and causing severe environmental, economic and social damage. The panel was proposed by the Renova Foundation, an entity created by Samarco, which is jointly owned by BHP and Vale. Yolanda Kakabase, a former President of IUCN and respected environmentalist will chair the panel.

For more information, click here.

 

Commonwealth

Environment Ministers meeting

Federal, State and Territory Environment Ministers met on 28 July 2017, committing to completing a draft plan to manage PFAS chemicals, endorsing a strategy for disposal and recycling of waste tyres, and setting a plan for banning micro-bead plastics if not effectively phased out by industry by mid-2018. 

The Ministers also agreed to progress "a common national approach to environmental-economic accounting and the free and open sharing of environmental data between jurisdictions."

To read the statement of outcomes from the meeting, click here

 

New South Wales

Container deposit scheme coordinator announced

NSW Environment Minister, Gabrielle Upton, has announced that Exchange for Change, an alliance of 5 major drink companies (Asahi, CUB, Coca-Cola, Coopers & Lion), will be the Coordinator of the container deposit scheme commencing on 1 December 2017. 

Under the scheme, 10-cent refunds will be made on returned beverage containers. A network of 800 reverse vending machines accepting returns will be operated by TOMRA-Cleanaway.

 

Queensland

Climate Transition Strategy released

The Queensland government has released its Climate Transition Strategy, outlining plans for reducing emissions to net-zero by 2050, with an interim 2030 goal of 30% reduction from 2005 levels. Actions described in the Strategy include:

  • regulating carbon emissions through the Environmental Protection Actif an effective national strategy isn't in place by 2020
  • supplying carbon credits created from landscape-protection projects
  • implementing renewable energy target of 50% by 2030
  • requiring all state government projects worth more than $100 million to undertake a sustainability assessment, including climate change considerations

All Australian jurisdictions other than WA and the NT have now committed to a net-zero target.

 

Waste Inquiry announced

Following a 4 Corners investigation into inter-state waste transportation, the Queensland government has announced an independent inquiry into the movement of waste between NSW and Queensland.  The inquiry, which is expected to take three months, will examine options to minimise incentives for waste transfer, evidence of illegal practices in the industry, and the need for regulatory reform.

Despite criticism from NSW regarding Queensland’s disposal fees, the Queensland government has confirmed that it will not re-introduce a waste levy, irrespective of any recommendations from the inquiry.

The Senate has also announced an inquiry into the waste and recycling industry, with details regarding submissions yet to be released.

 

Tasmania

EPBC Act approval for Okehampton salmon farm

On 1 August 2017, the Federal Minister for Environment and Energy determined that Tassal's proposed salmon farm in Okehampton Bay did not require further assessment or approval under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, provided the operations are carried out in the "particular manner" set out in the decision.

The proposal was referred to the Minister on the basis of its potential to significantly impact on threatened Giant Kelp and endangered Southern Right Whales. The particular manner requirements include measures to reduce the risk of vessel strike, noise disturbance and entanglement of marine mammals in nets.

For more information about the referral decision, click here.  

 

Victoria

New emission limits for brown coal projects

The Victorian Government has released a statement on coal, indicating that new projects using more than 27,000 tonnes per year will be required to achieve the following emission standards:

  • 3 tonnes of greenhouse gas per tonne of coal consumed
  • 45 tonnes of greenhouse per MWh of electricity generated

Companies can use carbon offsets or carbon capture and storage programs to achieve these standards.  The standards, and rules for meeting them, will be set out in regulations under the Environmental Protection Act.

 

Renewable Energy Action Plan

On 13 July 2017, the Victorian Renewable Energy Action Plan was launched by Al Gore. The plan outlines a range of initiatives to support sector growth, modernise the energy system and assist communities to adapt in order to meet its target of 40% reduction by 2025. 

Measures include:

  • $48.1M to purchase renewable energy certificates.
  • Bringing forward the development of two new wind farms and a new 75MW solar farm
  • $15.8M for a smart software system and solar and battery storage microgrid initiatives
  • $25M for new battery storage facilities

The new renewable energy action plan is expected to be followed by an energy efficiency and productivity strategy.

 

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In the courts

Victoria

World first climate risk disclosure case filed

Represented by Environmental Justice Australia, two shareholders have filed proceedings in the Federal Court against the Commonwealth Bank for failing to adequately disclose the bank's exposure to climate risks in its 2016 annual report.  

The case, the first legal shareholder action against a bank, will test the extent to which public companies are required to disclose information about climate change risks that will materially affect their financial position, prospects and reputation. 

To read the Concise Statement lodged in the Federal Court, click here.  For analysis of the implications of the case, click here.

 

Class action planned over recycling plant fire

A class action has been launched against recycling company SKM, alleging that its negligence resulting in a fire at its Coolaroo plant in Melbourne that coated nearby properties in ash and released fumes causing respiratory distress to residents.

The law firm will host a public meeting tomorrow night at the Coolaroo Hotel for local residents and businesses to discuss the class action and the potential for compensation.

Since the fire, EPA Victoria has been conducting and reporting on regular monitoring of air quality in the area.  The Minister has also announced an audit and fast-track waste management policy ensuring facilities store materials so as to minimise risks to health and the environment.

 

Appeal court affirms council's liability for historic contamination

In 2016, the Supreme Court held that Yarra City Council was liable for the costs incurred by the Metropolitan Fire and Emergency Services Board in cleaning up contamination at a Burnley site.  The site had been owned by Council, then acquired by the state government, before being acquired by the Board.

Council appealed against the decision, arguing that it had not been aware of the extent of the contamination when it owned the site, and the contamination had occurred before the State’s environmental laws were in place.

However, the Court of Appeal largely upheld the trial judge's decision.  While acknowledging that the Council had not “abandoned” the waste (never having known about it), the court was satisfied that Council’s liability depended on the clean-up notice, rather than its liability at the time of contamination.

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

 

NSW

4nature Inc v Centennial Springvale Pty Limited

The NSW Court of Appeal has upheld a challenge to the Planning Assessment Commission’s approval of an extension to Centennial Coal’s Springvale mine, authorising the discharge of large volumes of mine water into the river system that forms part of Sydney’s drinking water catchment.

4Nature appealed to the Land and Environment Court on the grounds that the PAC could not have been satisfied that the water would not affect water quality. The Court held that the PAC’s approval was lawful and the mine extension could proceed.

4nature successfully appealed that decision to the Court of Appeal, overturning the PAC’s decision.  A further hearing will consider orders to resolve the proceedings.

To read the decision, click here.  For analysis of the implications of the decision, click here.

 

Coal spill costs Centennial subsidiary $3 million

A Centennial Coal subsidiary, Clarence Colliery, has been fined more than $1M following a coal fines spill.  The Land and Environment Court noted that Clarence Colliery had negligently caused environmental harm by failing to install flood lights, sensors or alarms, failing to properly construct the slurry holding cell's perimeter, not properly training its contractors, and in failing to issue them with adequate instructions and orders to inspect the holding cell.

Remediation works relating to the spill cost $2M.

To read the decision in Environment Protection Authority v Clarence Colliery Pty Ltd [2017] NSWLEC 82, click here.

 


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Open for comment

Commonwealth

Gas Pipeline Regulation review

The Australian Energy Market Commission has published an issues paper into the effectiveness of gas pipeline regulation. Feedback on the issues paper will inform a draft report, to be released in February 2018.

Comments on the issues paper can be made until 22 August 2017. For more information, click here.

 

Climate change impacts to built environment

The Senate Environment and Communications References Committee is conducting an inquiry into the current and future impacts of climate change on housing, buildings and infrastructure, including water supply, transportation and energy infrastructure, and the adequacy of current climate policies.

The deadline for submissions has been extended until 31 August 2017.  For more information, click here

 

Draft Commonwealth Marine Park Management Plans

Federal Environment Minister, Josh Frydenberg, has released draft management plans for 44 Commonwealth Marine reserves, and proposed that "marine reserves" be renamed "marine parks".  The draft plans do not amend the management plan for South East Commonwealth Marine Reserves applying to waters around Tasmania.

The draft management plans are open for comment until 20 September 2017.  For more information, click here

 

Senate Inquiry into Murray-Darling Basin water market

The Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee is conducting an inquiry into the integrity of the water market in the Murray-Darling Basin, including allegations of water theft, the actions of the government agencies, the use of environmental water for irrigation and oversight of the Water for the Environment Special Account.

Submissions can be made until 28 September 2017.  For more information, click here.

 

ACT

Draft Migratory Species Action Plan 2017

The ACT Conservator of Flora and Fauna is seeking comments on a draft action plan to protect and manage the habitats of 27 migratory bird species.

Comments on the draft plan can be made until 25 August 2017.  For more information, click here.

 

Contaminated Sites policy

The EPA is seeking feedback on a draft Contaminated Sites Environment Protection Policy. The draft policy outlines requirements for the assessment, remediation, management and audit of contaminated land and the roles and responsibilities of various stakeholders in managing contaminated land.

Comments on the draft Policy can be made until 27 September 2017.  For more information, click here.

 

NSW

New guidance on impact assessment

NSW Planning and Environment has issued nine guides to improve the quality of environmental impact assessments for State significant projects, including mines, industrial facilities, power plants and waste facilities.

The guides cover matters including community participation, scoping and preparing EIAs, responding to external submissions, conducting community and stakeholder engagement, and modifying an approved project.

Comments on the draft guides can be made until 1 September 2017.  For more information, click here.

 

QLD

High-risk waste classifications

The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection is seeking feedback on its proposal to introduce three categories of risk for "regulated wastes" and to compress existing categories of waste activities into five “Environmentally Relevant Activities”

Under the proposal, generators can accept a default risk category assigned to their waste, or carry out testing to determine the appropriate category.

Comments can be made until 25 August 2017.  For more information, click here.

 

Tasmania 

Special Species Management Plan 

The Tasmanian Government has released a consultation draft of the Special Species Management Plan. The Plan, made under the Forestry (Rebuilding the Forest Industry) Act 2014, aims to “provide a management framework for the long-term and sustainable harvesting of Tasmanian special species timbers.”

Comments on the draft Plan can be made until 9am on 28 August 2017. For more information, click here.


Draft Salmon Growth Plan 

The Tasmanian government has released its draft Sustainable Industry Growth Plan for the Salmon Industry. The Growth Plan proposes new areas for salmon farm expansion in ocean waters, with the remainder of the State’s coasts to be declared “no grow” zones (other than existing leases). To view a map of the Grow and No Grow zones, click here.

The draft Growth Plan also outlines government plans to "encourage and manage the continued expansion of the industry", including:

  • finalising a new Biosecurity Act (click here for current draft Bill)

  • creating a Finfish Farming (Compliance and Monitoring) Unit in the EPA, to be funded by an industry levy

  • developing a new agreement between salmon companies concerning the future of farming in Macquarie Harbour (to replace the existing Area Management Agreement)

  • providing greater public access to more environmental monitoring data

  • establishing a new industry reference group to advise on implementation of the Growth Plan

Comments on the draft Growth Plan can be made until 8 September 2017. For more information, click here.

 

VIC

Inquiry into the Management, Governance and Use of Environmental Water

The Environment, Natural Resources and Regional Development Committee is seeking submissions to its inquiry into environmental water.

Submissions can be made until 25 August 2017.  For more information, click here.


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Events

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!

 

(Perth) NRM and Coastal Conference:  Adapting in a Changing World

Join NRM and coastal experts, managers, practitioners and community members to discuss knowledge and experiences in programs that improve coastal, land and water management.

When:  29-31 August 2017

Where:  Curtin University, Bentley, Perth

For program and registration details, click here

 

(Perth) NRM and Coastal Conference:  Adapting in a Changing World

Join NRM and coastal experts, managers, practitioners and community members to discuss knowledge and experiences in programs that improve coastal, land and water management.

When:  29-31 August 2017

Where:  Curtin University, Bentley, Perth

For program and registration details, click here

 

(Perth) NELA (WA)  State Conference: Compliance, Enforcement and Emerging Risk in Environmental Law

Don’t miss the 2017 NELA (WA) State Conference, this year focusing on compliance, enforcement and emerging risks in environmental law.  Featuring a keynote presentation from Christine Trenorden and a great line up of speakers, the conference is an opportunity to network and discuss issues relevant to the development of environmental law and policy.

When:  1 September 2017

Where:  Parmelia Hilton Hotel, Perth

For program and registration details, click here.

 

(Sydney) National Energy Summit:  Can We Solve the Crisis?

The Australian Financial Review in association with Deloitte are pleased to announce the inaugural National Energy Summit, featuring keynote presentations from Minister for the Environment and Energy, Hon Josh Frydenberg, and  Andrew Vesey, Managing Director & CEO of AGL

When:  9-10 October 2017

Where:  Sofitel Wentworth, Sydney

For program and registration details, 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.

 

(Canberra) Biodiversity Offsets: are they working in the ACT?

Join the Conservation Council for case studies and discussion of offset projects, how they’re assessed and monitored and who is is accountable for their outcomes. 

When: 31 October 2017, 12-2pm

For information, contact communications@conservationcouncil.org.au

 

(Hobart) Imagining a Different Future: Overcoming Barriers to Climate Justice

The University of Tasmania is hosting a global, multidisciplinary conference examining the barriers to responding to climate change, implementing climate justice, and proposing ways forward.

When:  8-9 February 2017

Where: University of Tasmania

For more information, click here.

 

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The NELA Bulletin is researched and written entirely by volunteers.
This month, we thank the following contributors:

  • Jess Feehely, EDO Tasmania - editor
  • Hanna Jaireth – contributor, Cth and ACT
  • David Tilley – contributor, Tas, NSW, Qld
  • Ben Greer – contributor, SA and WA