Discovery – Environment

EPA Bill passes through WA Parliament

On November 11, the Environmental Protection Amendment Bill 2020 and the Environmental Protection Amendment Bill (No.2) 2020 (EP Amendment Bills) passed through both the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council with amendments, and on November 19 received royal assent. 

Part 1 commenced November 19 and section 117 commenced November 20. All other parts / sections are yet to be proclaimed.  

CME welcomes the successful progress of the EP Amendment Bills through State  Parliament and considers this a positive step towards streamlining regulatory processes, effective implementation of bilateral agreements, and improving the ability of the Environmental Protection Act 1986 to deliver better environmental, government and business outcomes. It is even more important as WA commences its recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic that the State has an efficient Environmental Protection Act which ensures sustainable development and opportunities for Western Australians. 

New regulations and significant revision of existing regulations will now be required to support adoption of the Act amendments. Genuine public consultation will be essential to this next phase of the reform and CME is encouraged by the Government’s strong commitment to such consultation. 

EPBC Amendment (Streamlining Environmental Approvals) Bill 2020 Senate Inquiry and National Standards 

On November 12, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Streamlining Environmental Approvals) Bill 2020 was referred to the Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee for inquiry. 

CME lodged a submission to the inquiry and attended public hearings on November 23 in conjunction with APPEA, MCA, BCA and NFF representatives. 

On November 27, the Environment and Communications Legislation Committee released its Report on the inquiry into the Bill, recommending: 

  • The Explanatory Memorandum be amended to clarify that bilateral agreements made with jurisdictions under the provisions of the bill will be underpinned by strong Commonwealth-led National Environmental Standards. 
  • The Senate pass the bill. 

Debate on the Bill has been delayed to early 2021. 

National Standards 

The latest version (v3.0) of the proposed National Standards, as recommended by Graeme Samuel, have been publicly released. The content of version 3.0 is largely similar to that of version 2.0. 

As part of Commonwealth-led consultation, CME has provided comments to the WA Government and MCA on version 3.0 and will continue to be actively engaged in any consultation process. 

Pilbara Environmental Offsets Fund 

On November 19, the Morrison and McGowan governments jointly announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the Pilbara Environmental Offsets Fund (PEOF).   

The MOU allows the PEOF to receive and use monies paid into it by industry for environmental offset conditions from both the Environmental Protection Act 1986 (WA) and the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth).    

CME has long advocated for co-ordination and alignment of State and Commonwealth offset requirements and strongly welcomes this important announcement from Ministers Dawson and Ley.  

Critically, pooling funds to deliver a regional approach to offsets will ensure better environmental outcomes and maximise environmental benefits from industry contributions. This MOU also strengthens the opportunity for a bilateral approvals agreement between Western Australia and the Commonwealth.  

State Climate Policy 

On November 30, the WA Government released its long-awaited WA Climate Policy.  

The Policy outlines the State Government’s approach to abating emissions within its jurisdiction and vision for adapting to climate change across WA.  

The Policy builds upon the State Government’s $5.5 billion WA Recovery Plan and complements a range of initiatives already underway including the $21 million Electric Vehicle Strategy, $15 million Carbon Farming and Land Restoration Program, a $100 million investment in the 100-megawatt Big Battery project for the South West Interconnected System (SWIS), and a commitment to reduce emissions across WA’s public sector.  

CME looks forward to continuing to work constructively with the State and Federal governments on aligned strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the economy.