EPBC Bilateral Agreement
The current Bilateral Agreement between Queensland and the Commonwealth for dealing with matters under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) came into effect on 18 December 2014. While it is commonly referred to as ‘the Bilateral Agreement’, its full title is a Bilateral Agreement between the Commonwealth and the State of Queensland under Section 45 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 Relating to Environmental Assessment.
The objectives of the Bilateral Agreement are to:
- protect the environment, and ensure high environmental standards in accordance with the requirements of the EPBC Act
- promote the conservation and ecologically sustainable use of natural resources
- ensure an efficient, timely and effective process for environmental assessment and approval of actions
- remove duplication in environmental assessments through accreditation of Queensland processes by the Commonwealth.
The Bilateral Agreement applies to development and project proposals that are 'controlled actions' requiring assessment under Part 8 of the EPBC Act and which are undergoing an environmental impact statement (EIS) process under:
- Chapter 3, Part 1 of the Environmental Protection Act 1994; or
- Part 4 of the State Development and Public Works Organisation Act 1971; or
- Chapter 9, Part 2 of the Sustainable Planning Act 2009.
While these state EIS process have been accredited, this only covers the assessment requirements of the Commonwealth's EPBC Act process. The Commonwealth retains its separate approval powers under Part 9 of the EPBC Act.
However, where the bilateral does apply one assessment process needs to be undertaken as the Queensland processes assesses impacts on both Queensland and Commonwealth environmental matters.
The Queensland and Commonwealth governments have also agreed to Administrative Arrangements to make the Bilateral Agreement work. The procedures set out how the Queensland and the Commonwealth governments share information and work together to ensure the EIS assessment process is efficient and effective for each project under assessment. The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection is responsible for implementing the Administrative Arrangements for all EIS assessments conducted under Chapter 3, of the Environmental Protection Act 1994.
Proponents wishing to obtain advice on whether their proposed project is a controlled action under the EPBC Act should contact the Commonwealth Department of the Environment and Energy. The Department of the Environment and Energy website contains further information about the Bilateral Agreement and environmental assessments .