Lock the Gate Alliance welcomes new environmental laws introduced to Queensland Parliament today, which will help communities stop clearly unacceptable mining proposals in their early stages.
But the Alliance, which was involved in early stakeholder engagement concerning the laws, is disappointed other key reforms have been dropped in response to an hysterical overreaction from the mining lobby.
The Environmental Protection and Other Legislation Amendment (EPOLA) Bill 2022 also seeks to fix glaring issues with the way the state’s environment department deals with existing projects that are causing environmental damage.
However, key reforms that would have updated environmental conditions governing ageing and polluting mines were dropped at the last minute following lobbying from the mining industry.
“It’s encouraging that some legislative failings that communities have struggled against are addressed with these new laws,” Lock the Gate Alliance Queensland coordinator Ellie Smith said.
“Landholders and regional communities can suffer years of stress and uncertainty not knowing whether mining projects will go ahead, and these changes prevent mining companies from keeping zombie projects on their books.
“It’s also a win for transparency as the public will be notified of major changes to environmental approvals. This is very significant and an important step by the Palaszczuk Government.
“But unfortunately much greater reforms are still needed to restore the community’s confidence in Queensland’s mining laws.
“We see the mining industry chuck a tantrum every time substantive changes are proposed, and this Bill was no exception. As a result, the mining lobby has successfully kneecapped some much-needed reforms.
“Making sure older projects that were approved using outdated environmental laws are now subject to modern standards is common sense, but it was too much for the coal and gas lobby and was dropped by the government at the last minute."
Reforms that were dropped following pressure from the mining lobby included:
Updating environmental conditions for older coal and gas projects operating under conditions that are not up to modern standards.
Requiring a condition about the scale and intensity of an activity
Introducing uniform conditions to similar Environmental Authorities.
Among the more effective reforms that made it through:
All major amendments to Environmental Authorities will now be publicly notified, giving local communities a say.
The public interest of projects will be assessed by a pool of independent assessors.
Companies will have to progress their projects or withdraw from the assessment process, mitigating a problem where communities faced years of heartache and limbo while waiting to see if a project would go ahead.