Environmental Regulation

Objectives

The main objects of the environment protection part of the Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Act 2000 are to ensure that, licensees will:

  • Ensure that their activities that have actual or potential adverse impacts on the environment are properly managed within an Ecologically Sustainable Framework to reduce environmental damage as far as reasonably practicable and acceptable to stakeholders.
  • Eliminate as far as reasonably practicable risk of significant long term environmental damage.

In the context of the Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Act, the term environment is used to cover the natural, social, heritage and economic aspects of the environment.

To facilitate the achievement of this main object, the Act requires that any activity can only be conducted if it is covered by an approved statement of environmental objectives (SEO) for the region and land system within which it will be carried out. The SEO outlines the environmental objectives that the activity is required to achieve and the criteria upon which the achievement will be assessed. The SEO is prepared and approved on the basis of information provided by the licensee of the activity's impacts on the environment as documented in an environmental impact report (EIR). The preparation of the SEO may also require public consultation depending on the level of environmental impact of the proposed activity as determined by the Minister on the basis of publicly developed and disclosed criteria.

The main focus of the regulatory regime is in the approval and ensuring the achievement of the environmental objectives outlined in the SEO. However, in cases where companies are not able to demonstrate their ability to achieve these objectives through past performance and effective internal management systems and processes, the regulatory focus is also on the approval and monitoring of the company's procedures and practices. These type of activities are referred to as 'high supervision' activities and require specific approval before commencement. Whereas, in the case where an activity is covered by an existing SEO and the company has satisfactorily demonstrated to the Minister its ability to achieve the objectives, specific activity approval is not required except for notification by the licensee that the activity will be undertaken. In this case the activity is referred to as a 'low supervision' activity.

The performance of the licensee against the SEO will be publicly disclosed annually on an environmental register as will the contents of the EIRs, SEOs and details of the Minister's determination of the level of environmental impact of all proposals.

Principles Of Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Act

The above requirements under the Environment part of the Act have been developed and implemented, as with the other objects of the Act, on the basis of the following six key regulatory principles.

1. Certainty
The environmental regulatory objectives and obligations under the regulatory regime are uniform, clear and predictable to all licensees and other stakeholders.

2. Openness
Decision-making processes are not exclusive. In the case of environmental protection this entails the need for fair and equitable processes for stakeholder consultation on the establishment of the environmental protection, including public safety, objectives.

3. Transparency
The decision-making processes are visible and comprehensible to all stakeholders (eg through publicly available guidelines to guide decision-making) and that industry performance in terms of compliance with the regulatory objectives is regularly reported to stakeholders.

4. Flexibility
The level of intervention (including enforcement) needed to ensure compliance is determined on the basis of the performance of the individual company or individual being regulated and the outcomes needing to be achieved.

5. Practicality
The regulatory objectives are achievable and measurable.

6. Efficiency
The compliance costs imposed on both government and the company by the regulatory requirements are minimised and justified. Distributional effects across society of company negative externalities such as pollution and land degradation as result of its activities is minimised and companies remain liable for the costs of such externalities.