In Queensland, you need to apply for an environmental authority (EA) to undertake an environmentally relevant activity. Environmentally relevant activities are industrial, resource or intensive agricultural activities with the potential to release contaminants into the environment. They include a wide range of activities such as aquaculture, sewage treatment, cattle feed lotting, mining and resource activities such as petroleum (which includes coal seam gas), geothermal and greenhouse gas storage activities.
- Streamlined approvals for certain resource activities
- Eligibility criteria and standard conditions for resource activities
- Consultation report: draft eligibility criteria and standard conditions for petroleum exploration, pipeline and survey and geothermal exploration activities
- Applications for an environmental authority for petroleum, geothermal or greenhouse gas storage activities
- Pre-lodgement services
- Streamlined model conditions for petroleum activities
The Environmental Protection (Greentape Reduction) and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2012 (Greentape Reduction Act) amended the Environmental Protection Act 1994 (EP Act). These amendments, which commenced on 1 April 2013, have simplified the way in which applications for EAs are assessed. These regulatory reforms introduced an integrated approval process for environmentally relevant activities (ERAs) which allows for approval requirements to be proportional to the environmental risk of the activity.
Under these reforms, EA applications for low-risk petroleum exploration, petroleum survey, petroleum pipeline activities and geothermal exploration activities have changed where eligibility criteria and standard conditions are in place.
Eligibility criteria are restrictions set to ensure environmental risks associated with the operation of an ERA are able to be managed by the standard conditions. Standard conditions are a set of operating conditions which must be complied with when undertaking the activity.
The 3 different types of applications for an EA are:
- standard applications—when an applicant can meet the eligibility criteria and all the standard conditions associated with an ERA. This application type is only permitted for low risk activities and as such, there is no assessment by EHP.
- variation applications—when an applicant can meet the eligibility criteria but needs to change one or more of the standard conditions for an ERA. The impacts from these changes are assessed by EHP and standard conditions are varied.
- site specific applications—when an applicant does not meet the eligibility criteria for the ERA or where there are no eligibility criteria in existence. These applications are subject to a whole-of-project assessment and include public notification. Standard conditions may be used in these approvals however it is likely that site-specific conditions will also be needed to protect environmental values.
The eligibility criteria and standard conditions (collectively known as ERA Standards) for certain petroleum activities and geothermal exploration are available here:
- petroleum exploration—ESR/2016/2386 (formerly EM928)
- petroleum survey—ESR/2016/2387 (formerly EM929)
- petroleum pipeline—ESR/2016/2388 (formerly EM930)
- geothermal exploration—ESR/2016/2389 (formerly EM931)
Applicants for these activities can submit a standard application if they can meet the associated eligibility criteria and standard conditions. A variation application can be lodged if the eligibility criteria can be met but the applicant cannot or does not want to meet any one of the standard conditions for the activity.
These ERA Standards were developed in consultation with industry and commenced on 31 May 2013. Minor changes were made to the standard conditions, and associated definitions (amended on 30 September 2015) to reflect the repeal of the Wild Rivers Act 2005.
Consultation report: draft eligibility criteria and standard conditions for petroleum exploration, pipeline and survey and geothermal exploration activities
EHP developed the eligibility criteria and standard conditions for these activities after consultation with key stakeholders. Draft eligibility criteria and standard conditions were made available for public consultation through the EHP website. The consultation process was held from 28 February to 22 April 2013. The following report summarises the results of the consultation. It outlines the key issues raised during consultation and the resultant actions or responses from EHP.
Applications for an environmental authority for petroleum, geothermal or greenhouse gas storage activities
Application forms and guidelines relating to EA applications are available on the Business and Industry Portal.
EA applications for petroleum, geothermal or greenhouse gas storage activities are to be submitted to:
Permit and Licence Management
Department of Environment and Heritage Protection
GPO Box 2454, BRISBANE QLD 4001
Where an activity will result in significantly disturbed land, EHP may require an EA holder to pay financial assurance (FA). FA is a type of financial security provided to the Queensland Government to cover any costs or expenses incurred in taking action to prevent or minimise environmental harm or rehabilitate or restore the environment, should the holder fail to meet their environmental obligations. Subject to successful rehabilitation and the EA holder meeting their closure conditions, FA is returned at the end of the project.
For further information on FA, including when FA may be required and how it is calculated, refer to the Business and Industry Portal. The Business and Industry Portal includes links to all relevant documents and forms, including Version 2 of the guideline ‘Financial Assurance under the Environmental Protection Act 1994’, which took effect on 7 March 2014 following consultation with key stakeholders.
Applicants are encouraged to use EHP’s pre-lodgement services before lodging a formal application. These services are complimentary and allow prospective applicants to seek direction and advice from EHP regarding EA applications. More information about pre-lodgement services is available on the Business and Industry Portal.
These services can be initiated by completing the form Application for pre-lodgement services—ESR/2015/1664 (formerly EM1125).
Streamlined model conditions (‘streamlined conditions’) for the petroleum industry were first published in April 2014. A revised version of the model conditions was published in May 2016 to account for:
- the commencement of the Environmental Offsets Act 2014, which required the existing offset conditions to be amended, and
- the repeal of the Wild Rivers Act 2000, which required the existing wild rivers condition to be deleted.
The revised streamlined model conditions are detailed in the guideline Streamlined model conditions for petroleum activities—ESR/2016/1989 (formerly EM1274).
The streamlined conditions:
- are based on acceptable management approaches and constraints to protect environmental values
- can be incorporated into environmental authorities (EAs) for variation, site-specific or amendment applications for petroleum activities
- can be incorporated in an EA to manage petroleum activities and meet the objectives of the Environmental Protection Act 1994 (EP Act).
Assisting the department in improving decision making timeframes, the streamlined conditions are outcomes-focused and provide for transparency and consistency across the petroleum industry. In addition, the conditions provide red tape reduction benefits for the petroleum industry while maintaining environmental standards.
The information sheet How to address environmentally sensitive areas and offset requirements in an application for an environmental authority for resource activities—ESR/2016/1992 assists applicants with addressing environmentally sensitive areas and offset requirements in an application for an environmental authority for resource activities.
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