Ordinary Queenslanders who oppose major amendments to damaging mining projects will now have a greater say, following the passing of new laws in State Parliament today.
The Palaszczuk Government passed the Environmental Protection and Other Legislation Amendment (EPOLA) Bill 2022 today. It means:
All major amendments to Environmental Authorities will now be publicly notified, giving locals a say.
The Environment Department can now refuse a project up front if it is clearly unacceptable. This saves locals fighting projects that are clearing not appropriate for an area.
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 face years of heartache and limbo while company bosses ponder whether to invest or cut and run.
The original Bill sought to go even further, and would have brought conditions for older existing mining projects into line with modern standards, but the mining lobby complained and so those changes were dropped.
Lock the Gate Alliance Queensland Coordinator Ellie Smith said, “These changes came about due to hard fought efforts to highlight major problems with the act. While there is still so much to be done, we welcome these changes.
“It’s so vital that locals have a say over the mining projects in their area, and that where projects are built, they are done so with total transparency.
“Right now, the environment department is quietly assessing a major amendment to an environmental authority for coal seam gas giant Arrow Energy’s Surat Gas Project, yet there is no requirement for the government to even inform the community, let alone give Queenslanders the opportunity to challenge the amendment. We can’t even access the details of the amendment.
“Because of these new law changes, something like this should never happen again.”
Environmental Defenders Office Managing Lawyer Revel Pointon said, “For years gas companies have been able to slip through the environmental assessment process without the public, including communities directly impacted, being aware of them.
“These changes will mean there is a more robust, transparent assessment of proposed gas activities, and greater rights of communities to be informed and have their concerns heard around the many environmental, social and economic risks gas activities pose.”
Ms Smith said, “The scale has been tipped in the mining industry’s favour at the expense of the needs of ordinary Queenslanders for too long. And while there is still much work to be done, this is at least a step in the right direction.
“These new laws increase transparency and they offer another pathway for communities to challenge mining projects that are clearly unacceptable.
“But it’s a shame the mining lobby was able to kneecap the elements of these reforms that would have brought regulation of existing mines into line with modern practices.
“Queenslanders who are forced to share their local regions with ageing mining projects will suffer as a result of this capitulation to the mining lobby.”