A new streamlined approach for offshore petroleum and greenhouse gas activity environmental approvals comes into effect today in Australia, reducing regulatory burden and boosting business productivity while maintaining high environmental standards.
The streamlined approach is expected to lead to savings for industry and environmental groups worth an estimated $120 million per year.
Minister for Industry Ian Macfarlane and Minister for the Environment Greg Hunt named the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) as the sole assessor for offshore petroleum and greenhouse gas activities in Commonwealth waters.
Macfarlane said the one-stop shop approvals process would remove unnecessary duplication between two sets of laws, which had discouraged investment by adding costly layers of red tape for businesses trying to develop offshore projects.
“The environmental impacts of offshore activities were regulated under both the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act) and the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006,” Macfarlane said.
“NOPSEMA will now be the single point of contact for titleholders seeking regulatory approval, which means faster approvals and no duplication.
“NOPSEMA’s objective-based approach provides flexibility, promotes innovation and best practice environmental management and will lead to improved environmental outcomes in the future.”
Hunt said the decision to streamline the process was made following a formal and thorough Strategic Assessment under the EPBC Act, including nationwide public consultation with key stakeholders.
“The one-stop shop will maintain strong environmental safeguards and high environmental standards through a more streamlined process. There is no need to have two approvals processes when one can provide the same level of environmental protection,” Mr Hunt said.
“The NOPSEMA process that I have endorsed will include strict safeguards for the prevention of offshore activities within the boundaries of all World Heritage areas, including the Great Barrier Reef.”
APPEA welcomes the move
The oil and gas industry has welcomed Minister for the Environment Greg Hunt’s endorsement of streamlined approvals processes for offshore oil and gas operations that maintains existing high environmental safeguards.
Previously, companies required equivalent approvals from two Federal Government bodies – NOPSEMA and the Department of Environment. This change removes the unnecessary duplication. Industry and interested members of the public will now have one point of contact and one regulatory approval system.
APPEA Chief Executive David Byers said this streamlining of environmental approvals would mean clearer approvals processes and increase returns to project developers, suppliers, government and the Australian people.
“By eliminating unnecessary duplication, this move will save taxpayers and industry millions of dollars without impairing environmental outcomes. It will reduce costs and delays for companies undertaking offshore exploration and production activities. But it will also reduce costs for regulatory agencies and taxpayers.
“This is an important early step in the federal government’s move towards ‘one-stop shops’ for environmental approvals and for its deregulation agenda as a whole.
“Policies that undermine the development of energy projects and curtail energy production impose real costs on Australia through lost jobs, forgone economic growth and higher energy bills.
“The oil and gas industry welcomes the bipartisan approach that the major parties have taken to this important issue.”
Several independent reviews in recent years have recommended streamlining of processes, including the Productivity Commission Report on Mineral and Energy Resource Exploration, the Productivity Commission Report on Major Project Development Assessment Processes, and the Hawke Review.