Australia Streamlines Offshore Approval Procedures
Australia’s National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) became the sole regulator for petroleum activities in Commonwealth waters this month. These streamlined arrangements increase efficiency and reduce duplication of environmental assessment processes for petroleum activities in Commonwealth waters.
The streamlined approach introduced by Minister for Industry Ian Macfarlane and Minister for the Environment Greg Hunt will lead to savings for industry and environmental groups worth an estimated $120 million per year.
The environmental impacts of offshore activities were regulated under both the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act) and the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006.
“The one-stop shop will maintain strong environmental safeguards and high environmental standards through a more streamlined process. There is no need to have two approvals processes when one can provide the same level of environmental protection,” Hunt said.
“The NOPSEMA process that I have endorsed will include strict safeguards for the prevention of offshore activities within the boundaries of all World Heritage areas, including the Great Barrier Reef.”
The oil and gas industry has welcomed the move. Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association (APPEA) chief executive David Byers said this streamlining of environmental approvals would mean clearer approvals processes and increase returns to project developers, suppliers, government and the Australian people.
“By eliminating unnecessary duplication, this move will save taxpayers and industry millions of dollars without impairing environmental outcomes. It will reduce costs and delays for companies undertaking offshore exploration and production activities. But it will also reduce costs for regulatory agencies and taxpayers. This is an important early step in the federal government’s move towards ‘one-stop shops’ for environmental approvals and for its deregulation agenda as a whole.”
Several independent reviews in recent years have recommended streamlining of processes, including the Productivity Commission Report on Mineral and Energy Resource Exploration, the Productivity Commission Report on Major Project Development Assessment Processes, and the Hawke Review.