Submission to the Senate regarding the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment Bill 2013

The Business Council of Australia has made a submission to the Senate Standing Committees on Environment and Communications in relation to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment Bill 2013 (EPBC Amendment Bill 2013).

In the submission, we argue that the Bill is fundamentally bad law born of a poor regulation-making process, because the problem it seeks to address has not been properly defined.

We recommend that the Bill be withdrawn, and the issue reconsidered through a proper process including a Regulatory Impact Assessment followed by comprehensive consultation with those who will be affected.

In its current form, the Bill will:

  • add additional costs to coal seam gas and coal projects through duplication
  • run counter to COAG’s recent commitment to streamline approvals
  • capture a number of small projects that will have negligible impacts on the environment and would not have otherwise needed to go through a federal process
  • potentially impact on projects that have already been approved, posing sovereign risk issues
  • inhibit exploration for coal seam gas reservations.

In the submission, we recommend that the existing COAG National Partnership Agreement on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development and related Independent Expert Scientific Committee be continued and their effectiveness assessed in 2014 as agreed.

We also recommend a CSIRO review to identify the possible impacts of coal seam gas operations, coal mining and other commercial or agricultural operations on water resources, to assess what impacts there have been to date, the level and scale of risk, and options to ameliorate any impacts.

Following that research, we recommend that COAG examine current federal and state legislation and its capacity to manage any identified risks, and then consult with stakeholders to devise appropriate responses that are proportionate to the risk/problem and that do not have unintended consequences for the industry or environmental legislation.

Submission to the Senate Standing Committees on Environment and Communications in relation to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment Bill 2013