20/10/2015 - 16:03

EPA takes ‘bigger picture’ approach

20/10/2015 - 16:03

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Paul Vogel has used his last Environmental Protection Authority annual report to highlight concerns about growing traffic congestion and vehicle emissions, as well as support plans that promote greater uptake of cycling and public transport.

EPA chair Paul Vogel

Paul Vogel has used his last Environmental Protection Authority annual report to highlight concerns about growing traffic congestion and vehicle emissions, as well as support plans that promote greater uptake of cycling and public transport.

Dr Vogel, who is due to be replaced next month by former Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation group executive of energy and EPA board member, Tom Hatton, said the EPA was turning its focus to the bigger picture.

As part of a greater consideration of the cumulative impacts of developments, the report included details on what it said was one of the most important pieces of EPA advice in recent decades – a strategic assessment of the Perth and Peel regions.

It said this included the crucial considerations of air quality, particularly in light of regional population growth forecasting 1.5 million additional people in the Perth and Peel regions, and the increased risk of more bushfires.

Citing impacts from a changing climate, the EPA said it could seek to ensure proponents of projects with decades-long lifespans considered projected environmental changes, such as potentially less rainfall and an increasing risk profile due to sea level rises, or more frequent and intense storms.

It also called for an increase in the amount of trees and quality green spaces in urban areas to provide a cooling effect that could mitigate forecast higher temperatures and the urban heat island effect.

“By taking a broader, strategic view of individual assessments, we are looking beyond individual projects and improving our understanding of the cumulative risks and impacts within a region,” Dr Vogel said.

“We want to know if the conditions we recommend are practical and more importantly do they help protect the environment in the long term?

“How do we ensure that we end up with a net environmental benefit when development activities end?”

To that end, the report reiterated concerns made in previous annual reports about the limited amount of rehabilitation and knowledge sharing it said had occurred following mine closures.

“Rehabilitation is looming as one of the major environmental policy issues of coming years as older mines begin to close,” the report said.

It said while most companies had rehabilitation commitments as a basic obligation of mine closure plans, the EPA remained concerned that mining company boards may not be paying sufficient attention to potentially large financial liabilities that could occur if they did not invest in long-term analysis and planning prior to mine closures.

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