As expected, we are entering into an intense period of environmental policy and law reform. Following on from a key election commitment, the Government has released amendments to the Water Act that will remove the exemptions to mining and petroleum companies. Removing the exemptions means that mining and conventional petroleum operations will have to acquire water extraction licences as well as being subject to new laws prohibiting certain activities relating to water ways.
Unconventional petroleum activities (fracking) will be subject to the new laws as soon as the Act is operational but other mining activities will have a six-month transition period. This means we could potentially see a situation where the five proposed mines in central Australia could operate in the current outdated system with their water use being inadequately regulated.
The other two amendments include the:
Nuclear Waste Transport, Storage and Disposal (Prohibition) Amendment Bill
This will effectively exempt low level radioactive waste produced from offshore activities from regulation under the Act. We are still working on understanding the full implications of this amendment in facilitating potential development of a fracking industry.
Northern Territory Environment Protection Authority Amendment Bill
This is a largely administrative amendment that will introduce changes to the membership of the EPA, a statement of intent to guide EPA decisions and powers to review environmental management systems.
The reforms are complex processes to engage in as they are all draft Acts that need legal scrutiny. We will be making submissions on each Bill. We encourage anyone with concerns about the amendments to contact us or alternatively make their own submissions.
These submissions will go to parliamentary scrutiny committees which will then compile a report on the feedback received. It is a unique opportunity to have public scrutiny and debate on the operation of these laws and gain an understanding of the lobbying positions of mining and petroleum companies.
We will be compiling summaries of each Bill and their implications for mining, fracking and general environmental governance in the NT.
You can access the Bills here: