30/03/2009 - 10:19

EPA plans new assessment approach

30/03/2009 - 10:19

Bookmark

Upgrade your subscription to use this feature.

Government and industry have endorsed the Environmental Protection Authority's proposal to adopt a new 'risk based' approach for project assessment, unveiled in a report today.

Government and industry have endorsed the Environmental Protection Authority's proposal to adopt a new 'risk based' approach for project assessment, unveiled in a report today.

The Environmental Impact Assessment Process Review has called for the adoption of a risk-based approach to match increasingly complex environmental challenges and improve efficiency and certainty of the process.

"A risk-based approach will direct resources and analysis towards the environmental issues that matter most, and handle complexities like cumulative impacts and complex projects such as the Kimberly LNG Precinct," EPA chairman Paul Vogel said.

"However, these changes will not reduce one of the fundamental strengths of the EIA process - transparency and opportunities for public input."

Environment minister Donna Faragher said the review ensured sustainable development in Western Australia by concentrating on risk-based assessment and ensuring an environmental focus on issues that mattered, while still reforming the approvals process by ensuring timeliness of reporting within timeframes.

The minister said a taskforce would be formed, chaired by Mr Vogel, to develop an environmental data system to be shared between government and industry.

"Significant government and industry resources are committed to environmental investigations, monitoring and research around the State. Environmental data collection has previously been costly and uncoordinated," she said.

Chamber of Minerals and Energy chief executive Reg Howard-Smith welcomed the review as a critical step towards sustainable development in Western Australia.

"CME has supported the EIA Process Review since its inception as a mechanism to streamline approvals whilst maintaining the rigour and high standards of environmental assessment," Mr Howard-Smith said.
"We are encouraged by moves to a more strategic and risk-based approach to environmental impact assessment, which will facilitate a more streamlined process whilst directing resources to areas of greatest environmental risk," he said.

 

The EPA statement is pasted below:

 

EPA Environmental Impact Assessment Process Review

Risk-based assessment is among the reforms and recommendations to enhance Western Australia's environmental impact assessment (EIA) process announced today.

EPA chairman Paul Vogel said the changes were needed to match increasingly complex environmental challenges and to improve the efficiency and certainty of the process.

'Environmental protection in 2009 requires a more strategic and risk-based approach than we've had to date," Dr Vogel said.

"A risk-based approach will direct resources and analysis towards the environmental issues that matter most, and handle complexities like cumulative impacts and complex projects such as the Kimberly LNG Precinct.

'However, these changes will not reduce one of the fundamental strengths of the EIA process - transparency and opportunities for public input.'

The Review process has involved extensive consultation with stakeholders and there is broad support for the recommended reforms. The EPA will progressively implement the reforms with ongoing input from the Stakeholders Reference Group.

Key reforms recommended by the EPA include:
- A new risk-based approach that focuses on environmental risks and impacts that matter. This is coupled with a simplification of the process by reducing the number of assessment levels from five to two.
- Approval conditions that focus on environmental outcomes rather than project design details, and are clear, reasonable and auditable.
- Timelines for key steps in the process, with transparent reporting against the timelines and analysis of any delays
- Parallel processing with other approval processes to reduce overall timelines.
- Increased use of strategic environmental assessment to improve environmental outcomes and expedite future assessments.
- Improved project management and tracking
- Shared government - industry environmental data system to improve project planning, support better decision-making and reduce duplication of effort and expenditure across the board.

EIA is a predictive tool that is systematically applied at the early planning and design stages of development proposals so that government and the community can form a view about a proposal's environmental acceptability and what conditions, if any, should be applied to control potential risks and impacts.

 

The EIA Review outcomes will contribute to the Government's commitment to improve approval processes across government, and the EPA is working closely with other arms of government to deliver the reforms.

The EPA's Report is available at www.epa.wa.gov.au . Regular updates on the progress of reforms will also be available.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

Subscription Options