IN THIS ARTICLE:
One of the EPA’s key roles is to provide Government with advice on the environmental acceptability of development proposals and statutory planning schemes. Development proposals include proposals for mining, industry as well as infrastructure such as ports, railways and pipelines. Planning schemes include both statutory planning schemes and their amendments.
This is the process of referral and assessment of significant and strategic proposals, which is outlined in further detail in the Environmental Impact Assessment (Part IV Divisions 1 and 2) Administrative Procedures 2016 and the Environmental Impact Assessment Procedures Manual (Part IV Divisions 1 and 2).
STAGE 1- Referral of a proposal to the EPA
Any proposal likely to have a significant environmental effect on the environment should be referred to the EPA. Any person may refer a significant proposal to the EPA, except in certain situations:
- Only a proponent may refer a strategic proposal
- Only a proponent or a responsible authority may refer a proposal under an assessed scheme
- A decision-making authority is required to refer a proposal that appears to be a significant proposal
Proponents are encouraged to discuss proposals with staff of the Environmental Services Division of the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER), relevant decision making authorities, government agencies and stakeholders before referral.
Under certain circumstances the EPA may refuse to accept a referral. For example, if the proposal is clearly not a significant proposal or the proposal has previously been referred to the EPA.
STAGE 2: EPA to decide whether to assess a referred proposal
Once the EPA has registered a valid referral, it must determine whether to assess the referral.
The EPA invites public comments through its consultation hub on whether or not the EPA should assess the proposal and, if so, the level of assessment.
The EPA keeps a public record of all referrals and publishes its decision whether or not to assess a proposal, or whether or not a proposal is a derived proposal.
Decision to assess:
If the EPA decides to assess a proposal, the EPA will also decide on the level of assessment, which is the proposal-specific requirements that the EPA determines are necessary to assess the proposal.
The EPA’s decision to assess a proposal and the level of assessment is not appealable.
Decision not to assess:
When the EPA decides not to assess a proposal, it determines that the likely effect on the environment is not so significant as to warrant assessment by the EPA. The EPA may give advice and make recommendations on the environmental aspects of the proposal to the proponent or any other relevant person or authority.
The decision of the EPA not to assess a proposal is appealable, except when the decision includes a recommendation that the proposal be dealt with under Part V Division 2 (Clearing).
A proponent may request that the EPA declares a referred proposal to be a derived proposal. This means that the proposal was part of a strategic proposal which has already been assessed by the EPA. If the EPA declares a proposal to be a derived proposal it is subject to the Strategic Proposal Ministerial Statement and any accompanying conditions.
The EPA invites public comment through its consultation hub on whether or not a proposal should be declared a derived proposal.
STAGE 3: Assessment of proposals
The process for the EPA’s assessment of the different types of proposals, including significant and strategic proposals is the same. There are five key steps during this stage, however the first three steps are optional and the EPA will state whether these are required when it decides to assess the proposal (stage 2).
1. Scoping the proponent environmental review
When additional assessment information is required, an Environmental Scoping Document is prepared by either the EPA or the proponent which defines the proposal specific requirements of the proponent's environmental review. The Environmental Scoping Document includes the preliminary key environmental factors that the proponent needs to address and the required work (including studies and investigations) that the proponent needs to carry out.
2. Preparation of additional assessment information:
The EPA may require a proponent to undertake an environmental review and provide a report on the environmental review to the EPA. The EPA refers to this report as the Environmental Review Document.
The EPA may require that the proponent produce Environmental Management Plans to demonstrate how proposed management measures will reduce environmental impacts to an acceptable level.
The EPA may also require any person to provide it with information, including requests for advice from relevant decision making authorities and other government agencies.
3. Public review
The EPA may require the proponent to make the Environmental Review Document and any other information or report available for public review.
The EPA may also require the proponent to respond to any submissions received during the public comment period.
4. Preparation of EPA draft assessment report
Once the EPA has adequate assessment information it will assess the proposal, based on information including:
- referral information,
- additional assessment information, including an Environmental Review Document,
- submissions (if information is made available for public review) and the proponent's response to any submissions, if required
- additional assessment information obtained during the assessment, including the EPA's investigations and inquiries.
- consider whether Environmental Management Plans provided during the assessment are adequate;
- consider whether conditions are necassary and if so, develop draft conditions; and
- prepare a draft assessment report.
5. Completion of the EPA Assessment
The EPA completes its assessment when the EPA considers the draft assessment report and any conditions and:
- agrees on the key environmental factors identified in the course of the assessment
- agrees to recommend whether or not the proposal may be implemented
- agrees to adopt the draft assessment report as the basis for the EPA's final assessment report
- resolves that the EPA prepare and approve the final assessment report and give that report to the Minister.
Decision-making authority not to approve proposal until certain events occur
A decision-making authority is constrained from making a decision that could have the effect of causing or allowing a proposal to be implemented, if:
- it has referred, or has been required to refer, a proposal to the EPA, or
- it has received a notice from the EPA that the proposal will be assessed.
Minor or preliminary work
Proponents may carry out minor or preliminary work associated with the proposal with the consent of the EPA.
Changes to proposals during assessment
The EPA may only consent to a change a proposal if the change is unlikely to significantly increase any impact that the proposal may have on the environment.
STAGE 4: EPA report on the assessment of a proposal
At the completion of the assessment, the EPA prepares a report and recommendations for the Minister for Environment. The assessment report sets out what the EPA considers are the key environmental factors identified in the course of the assessment, the EPA’s recommendations as to whether or not the proposal may be implemented and the conditions and procedures to which implementation should be subject.
Where the proposal is a strategic proposal, the EPA will recommend whether or not the future proposals, identified in the strategic proposal, may be implemented.
The EPA’s report and recommendations are made publically available on the EPA’s website.
Any person may lodge an appeal with the Minister against the content and recommendations in an assessment report.
STAGE 5: Implementation of proposals
The Minister for Environment considers the EPA’s report and any public appeals before determining, in consultation with other Ministers, whether the proposal should be allowed to proceed, and if so, under what conditions.
If the Minister for Environment determines that a proposal may be implemented, a Ministerial Approval Statement is issued under s45(5) of the Environmental Protection Act 1986. This sets out the conditions and procedures that the proponent must adhere to during the project implementation.
Once a proposal has been approved and a Ministerial Approval Statement is issued, the proponent is required to ensure that implementation of the proposal is carried out in accordance with the implementation conditions, including any Environmental Management Plans required as a condition.
The DWER monitors compliance with the Ministerial Approval Statements issued under the Environmental Protection Act 1986.
Changes to proposals after s. 45(5) statement (s.45C)
Once a Ministerial Approval Statement has been issued, proponents may request a change to a proposal by writing to the Minister. If these changes will not have a significant detrimental effect on the environment in addition to, or different from, the effect of the original proposal, then the Minister may approve the change without referring a revised proposal to the EPA.
Changing implementation conditions (s. 46)
If the Minister considers that the implementation condition(s) relating to a proposal should be changed, the Minister may request that the EPA inquire into and report on the matter. The Minister’s request to the EPA may be initiated by any person (including the proponent, the EPA or the public).
On completion of the inquiry, the EPA provides a report to the Minister including a recommendation on whether or not the implementation conditions should be changed and any other recommendations. The EPA’s report is made publically available on this website.
The EPA’s report (including recommendations) to the Minister is not appealable. However, the proponent may appeal the conditions agreed.
- Environmental Impact Assessment (Part IV Divisions 1 and 2) Administrative Procedures 2016
- Environmental Impact Assessment Procedures Manual (Part IV Divisions 1 and 2)
- Statement of Environmental Principles, Factors and Objectives
- Instructions - Referral of a proposal under s38.
- Instructions on how to define the key characteristics of a proposal
- Instructions- How to prepare an Environmental Review Document
- Instructions - Preparing Environmental Protection Act 1986 PIV Environmental Management Plans
- Instructions- Public advertising requirements
- Instructions - Minor or preliminary work