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Criteria for classifying the level of environmental impact of regulated activities: requirement under Part 12 of the Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Act 2000 – 2018 Revision.

Under section 11(2) of the Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Regulations 2013 (the Regulations), the Minister must review the criteria under section 98 of the Act for the assessment of the environmental impact of regulated activities at least once every 5 years. This document – Criteria for classifying the level of environmental impact of regulated activities – was provided to the Environmental Protection Authority, Department for Environment and Water, and the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure for comment in 2018 when undertaking this 5 yearly review.

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Comments received during this targeted consultation, as captured in Appendix 5 of the above mentioned document prompted a comprehensive review. The main sections of focus were:

  • Duplication of scoring within the current risk Matrix (Table 5), whereby;
    • Table 5 was amended to now include 4 scores for manageability and 2 scores for predictability.
    • Manageability scores for 2 and 3 were amalgamated and relevant wording reflected in Table 4 and section 5.2.2, and
    • Predictably scores for 1 and 2, and for 3,4 and 5 were also amalgamated and wording reflected in Table 1 and 2, and section 5.1.3.
  • Subjectivity in classifying the overall environmental impact of the proposed activity (Section 7)
    • An adjusted scoring method/wording has been included to remove subjectivity in that the previous wording of ‘majority’ has been replaced with:
    • Low environmental impact = >95% of events have been scored as low
    • Medium Environmental Impact = at least 5% of events have been scored as medium/high, with high not exceeding 5%.
    • High Environmental Impact = at least 5% of events have been scored as high.

To accommodate the amalgamated manageability and predictability significance scores within (Table 5) it was necessary to revise the wording, within Tables 1, 2 and 4 whereby;

  • The manageability criterion within Table 4 was reworded:  
    • Stakeholder concerns will now trigger a minimum score of 3 out of 4, whereby previously it automatically scored a 5 out of 5. Stakeholder concerns previously had equal weighting to catastrophic consequence such as serious death or injury, or permanent change to the environment. The new scoring better reflects the level of consultation required when only stakeholder concerns are raised,
    • Events where there is high confidence that consequences can be managed to occur only for short term and are confined within a small area – in the context of the environment within which they will occur, will now trigger a maximum score of 2.
  • The predictability criterion was reworded:
    • Table 2 will only have two levels of predictability that being  the majority of certainty being either high or low.
    • Table 1 has been reduced to two levels of certainty to again remove subjectivity, that being uncertainty existing and reasonable certainty in the prediction of the issue. The medium level of certainty was removed.

The edits made during this review do not change the outcome of previously assessed activities when compared to the newly revised criteria, rather the changes provide more clarity on how an overall environmental impact score has been assigned, by reducing duplication and subjectivity within the scoring.

The Energy Resources Division will review this document again in 2024 in accordance with Regulation 11(2) or earlier if required.

Please note in the event a new or revised Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is formally submitted under the Act for assessment, prior to gazettal of this newly revised criteria, that EIR will be assessed under the previous criteria.