Changes on the horizon for Queenslands Environmental Protection Act
19 October 2022
19 October 2022
The Environmental Protection and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2022 (Qld) was introduced into Parliament on 12 October 2022, and proposes broad ranging amendments to the Environmental Protection Act 1994 (Qld). The proposed amendments extend to much of the Act, and have the potential to impact both existing and proposed operations.
According to Queensland Environment Minister Meaghan Scanlon, the proposed reforms will "provide greater certainty for the community and industry", including by providing "early certainty on clearly unacceptable projects". Minister Scanlon said that the amendments were about "better protecting the environment, giving industry support by streamlining and providing greater certainty on processes, and ensuring the independent regulator can continue to be effective in its role".
Some of the key changes proposed in the Bill are summarised below.
The Environmental Protection Act 1994 (Qld) currently gives "authorised persons" broad powers of entry and investigation. The Bill proposes to further expand these powers, including as follows:
|New power to require a corporation to nominate a person to attend interviews and answer questions on its behalf.||While investigators have historically sought to require this, there is currently no express statutory power for them to do so.|
|Express authority for authorised persons to use drones and body-worn cameras while exercising their powers.||In our experience this is already common practice.|
|Expansion of the existing "special evidentiary provision", allowing an authorised person to give evidence about environmental nuisance that constitutes a non-compliance with an environmental authority, without the need to call further opinion evidence.||This provision currently only extends to evidence of offences against the Act, rather than for contravention of an environmental authority.|
One of the key differences between a transitional environmental program (TEP) and other statutory tools has always been that a TEP is applicant driven – the applicant prepares and submits the TEP for the Department's approval.
Under the Bill, this is set to change. The Bill seeks to amend TEP provisions so that the applicant applies for a TEP, and the Department is responsible for drafting it. Interestingly, despite this change the TEP application will still need to satisfy all of the existing TEP content requirements.
The Bill also proposes to introduce an express power to refuse a TEP application if the TEP may allow or cause serious environmental harm.
Various changes to the contaminated land framework are proposed under the Bill.
|One of the key changes seeks to clarify the statutory notification obligation for contaminated land. The requirement to notify upon becoming aware of "the happening of an event" involving a hazardous contaminant has caused uncertainty for some time. Under the proposed amendments, notification will be required where a relevant person becomes aware of the presence of, or happening of an event involving, a hazardous contaminant.|
Other proposed amendments include:
The Bill proposes a range of other important amendments. They include:
The Bill is currently before the Health and Environment Committee. Only two weeks has been allowed for consultation, with submissions closing on 26 October 2022. The Committee is then due to report by 25 November 2022.
Authors: Paul Wilson, Senior Associate; Finley Harding, Graduate