01/04/2009 - 22:00

Positive industry response to EPA review

01/04/2009 - 22:00

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INDUSTRY has welcomed the Environmental Protection Authority's environmental impact assessment process review, supporting its recommendation to move towards risk-based assessments for environmental approvals.

INDUSTRY has welcomed the Environmental Protection Authority's environmental impact assessment process review, supporting its recommendation to move towards risk-based assessments for environmental approvals.

The review report, released this week, details the key findings and recommendations designed to enhance the quality, timeliness and certainty of the EPA's advice to government on development proposals.

Among its key recommendation is the adoption of a new risk-based approach to the EIA process, focusing on the environmental risks and impacts of most importance.

It also recommended replacing management plan conditions with outcome-based conditions, shifting the focus onto achieving clear, reasonable and auditable environmental outcomes rather than specific management measures prescribed by the EPA.

Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association WA director Richard Ellis said the approach would not only streamline the system, but also allow the EPA to direct resources towards improving environmental outcomes.

"The EPA and the proponent can agree on the risks up front, the proponent can pull together a management strategy and the EPA can focus on the significant environmental issues, if there are any, rather than micro-managing the project from beginning to end," he said.

The review also recognised the significant workload and backlog of assessments working their way through the process, highlighting opportunities for co-investment by government and industry in the EIA process.

Almost 50 per cent of proposals being formally assessed are considered delayed, with one-third of proposals being formally assessed referred to the EPA prior to 2006 and just under half submitted before 2007.

The review also recommended reducing the number of levels of assessment from five to two.

Chamber of Minerals and Energy WA chief executive Reg Howard-Smith said the chamber had supported the EIA process review as a mechanism to streamline approvals and maintaining the high standards of environmental assessment.

"We are encouraged by moves to a more strategic and risk-based approach to environmental impact assessment, which will facilitate a more streamlined process while directing resources to areas of greatest environmental risk," Mr Howard-Smith said.

Environment Minister Donna Faragher announced the appointment of a taskforce, to be chaired by EPA chairman Paul Vogel, to develop an environmental data system.

The system will involve a co-investment partnership model between government, industry and the community for collecting, reporting and accessing environmental data.

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