Australian news, and some related international items

Leading doctors in Australia (over 180 of them) want Australia’s Australia’s Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) made stronger, not weaker

More than 180 doctors sign open letter calling for overhaul of ‘failing’ environmental laws, 25 May 20,    More than 180 health professionals have signed a letter warning the Commonwealth must strengthen Australia’s environmental laws to protect people’s health.

Australian Nobel laureate Peter Doherty is among more than 180 health professionals warning the nation is potentially at risk of being exposed to more pandemics and the impacts of climate change without an overhaul of the nation’s environmental laws.

Doctors for the Environment Australia and the Climate and Health Alliance have sent an open letter to federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley as she undertakes a once-in-a-decade review of environmental protection laws.

Australia’s Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) was established more than 20 years ago at a time when the doctors say the effects of climate change and its links to human health were not widely considered to be related.

The review comes amid the COVID-19 pandemic and follows Australia’s catastrophic summer bushfires with the health professionals warning that failing to conserve the environment will expose Australians to further devastation and health risks.

“We must protect the natural environment in order to prevent further and potentially even more deadly pandemics,” the letter says.

“The degradation of Australia’s natural environment and loss of our unique biodiversity is in effect a dismantling of our life support systems.”

The doctors argue the laws have failed as Australia has the second-highest rate of biodiversity in the world and is recognised as a land clearing and deforestation hotspot.

“The EPBC Act has failed to achieve its objectives of protecting Australia’s environment and promoting ecologically sustainable development and biodiversity conservation,” the letter says.

The letter, also signed by former Australian of the Year Professor Fiona Stanley, calls for an “entirely new generation” of environmental laws that focus on the impacts on human health and which have greater protections in place for biodiversity.

Associate Professor Katherine Barraclough from Doctors for the Environment Australia argues clearing forests and wildlife habitat increases the risk of infectious diseases being transferred from wildlife to people.

“The COVID-19 pandemic and the summer’s fires serve as a wake-up call. We must recognise the interconnections between humans, animals and natural places,” she said in a statement.

Climate and Health Alliance founder Fiona Armstrong said the government listened to the science in its response to COVID-19 and should do the same in regards to the environment and climate change.

An interim report into the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act review is expected mid-year with the final report expected in October.

May 25, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, health, politics | Leave a comment

Minerals Council of Australia keen to keep Australia’s environmental law the same, (or make it even worse)

Be worried when fossil fuel lobbyists support current environmental laws  Chris McGrath,Associate Professor in Environmental and Planning Regulation and Policy, The University of Queensland

May 19, 2020  The fossil fuel lobby, led by the Minerals Council of Australia, seem pretty happy with the current system of environment laws. In a submission to a review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act, it “broadly” supports the existing laws and does not want them replaced.True, the group says the laws impose unnecessary burdens on industry that hinder post-pandemic economic recovery. It wants delays and duplication in environmental regulation reduced to provide consistency and certainty.

But for the fossil fuel industry to broadly back the current regime of environmental protection is remarkable. It suggests deep problems with the current laws, which have allowed decision-making driven by politics, rather than independent science.

So let’s look at the resources industry’s stance on environment laws, and what it tells us.

Cut duplication

The Minerals Council’s submission calls for “eliminating or reducing duplication” of federal and state laws.

The fossil fuel lobby has long railed against environmental law – the EPBC Act in particular – disparaging it as “green tape” that it claims slows projects unnecessarily and costs the industry money.

On this, the federal government and the mining industry are singing from the same songbook. Announcing the review of the laws last year, the government flagged changes that it claimed would speed up approvals and reduce costs to industry.

Previous governments have tried to reduce duplication of environmental laws. In 2013 the Abbott government proposed a “one-stop shop” in which it claimed projects would be considered under a single environmental assessment and approval process, rather than scrutinised separately by state and federal authorities.

That proposal hit many political and other hurdles and was never enacted. But it appears to remain on the federal government’s policy agenda.

It’s true the federal EPBC Act often duplicates state approvals for mining and other activities. But it still provides a safety net that in theory allows the federal government to stop damaging projects approved by state governments. 

The Commonwealth rarely uses this power, but has done so in the past. In the most famous example, the Labor party led by Bob Hawke won the federal election in 1983 and stopped the Tasmanian Liberal government led by Robin Gray building a major hydroelectric dam on the Gordon River below its junction with the Franklin River.

The High Court’s decision in that dispute laid the foundation for the EPBC Act, which was enacted in 1999.

In 2009 Peter Garrett, Labor’s then-federal environment minister, refused the Queensland Labor government’s proposed Traveston Crossing Dam on the Mary River under the EPBC Act due to an unacceptable impact on threatened species.

The Conversation put these arguments to the Minerals Council of Australia, and CEO Tania Constable said:

The MCA’s submission states that Australia’s world-leading minerals sector is committed to the protection of our unique environment, including upholding leading practice environmental protection based on sound science and robust risk-based approaches.

Reforms to the operation of the EPBC Act are needed to address unnecessary duplication and complexity, providing greater certainty for businesses and the community while achieving sound environmental outcomes.

But don’t change the current system much

Generally, the Minerals Council and other resources groups aren’t lobbying for the current system to be changed too much.

The groups support the federal environment minister retaining the role of decision maker under the law. This isn’t surprising, given a succession of ministers has, for the past 20 years, given almost unwavering approval to resource projects.

For example, in 2019 the then-minister Melissa Price approved the Adani coal mine’s groundwater management plan, despite major shortcomings and gaps in knowledge and data about its impacts.

Independent scientific advice against the mine over the last ten years was sidelined in the minister’s final decision.

Countless more examples demonstrate how the current system works in the favour of mining interests – even when the industry itself claims otherwise.

The Minerals Council submission refers to an unnamed “Queensland open-cut coal expansion project” to argue against excessive duplication of federal and state processes around water use.

I believe this is a reference to the New Acland Coal Mine Stage 3 expansion project. I have acted since 2016 as a barrister for a local landholder group in litigation against that project.

When approached by The Conversation, the Minerals Council did not confirm it was referring to the New Acland project. Tania Constable said:

The case studies were submitted from a range of companies, and are representative of the regulatory inefficiency and uncertainty which deters investment and increases costs while greatly limiting job opportunities and economic benefits for regional communities from mining.

The New Acland mine expansion is on prime agricultural land on the Darling Downs, Queensland’s southern food bowl. Nearby farmers strongly opposed the project over fears of damage to groundwater, the creation of noise and dust, and climate change impacts.

But the Minerals Council fails to mention that since 2016, the mine has been building a massive new pit covering 150 hectares.

When mining of this pit began, the mine’s expansion was still being assessed under state and federal laws. Half of the pit was subsequently approved under the EPBC Act in 2017.

But the Queensland environment department never stopped the work, despite the Land Court of Queensland in 2018 alerting it to the powers it had to act.

Based on my own research using satellite imagery and comparing the publicly available application documents, mining of West Pit started while Stage 3 of the mine was still being assessed under the EPBC Act. And after approval was given, mining was conducted outside the approved footprint.

Despite these apparent breaches, the federal environment department has taken no enforcement action.

The Conversation contacted New Hope Group, the company that owns New Acland mine, for comment, and they refuted this assertion. Chief Operating Officer Andrew Boyd said:

New Hope Group strongly deny any allegations that New Hope Coal has in any way acted unlawfully.

New Acland Coal had and still has all necessary approvals relating to the development of the pit Dr McGrath refers to. It is also not correct to say that the Land Court alerted the Department of its powers to act with regards to this pit.

The Department is obviously aware of its enforcement powers and was aware of the development of the pit well before 2018. Further, the Land Court in 2018 rejected Dr McGrath’s arguments and accepted New Acland Coal’s position that any issues relating to the lawfulness of the pit were not within the jurisdiction of the Land Court on the rehearing in 2018.

Accordingly, the lawfulness of the pit was irrelevant to the 2018 Land Court hearing.

Dr McGrath also fails to mention that his client had originally accepted in the original Land Court hearing (2015-2017) that the development of the pit was lawful only to completely change its position in the 2018.

State and federal environmental laws work in favour of the fossil fuel industry in other ways. “Regulatory capture” occurs when government regulators essentially stop enforcing the law against industries they are supposed to regulate.

This can occur for many reasons, including agency survival and to avoid confrontation with powerful political groups such as farmers or the mining sector.

In one apparent example of this, the federal environment department decided in 2019 not to recommend two critically endangered Murray-Darling wetlands for protection under the EPBC Act because the minister was unlikely to support the listings following a campaign against them by the National Irrigators Council.

Holes in our green safety net

Recent ecological disasters are proof our laws are failing us catastrophically. And they make the mining industry’s calls to speed-up project approvals particularly audacious.

We need look only to repeated, mass coral bleaching as the Great Barrier Reef collapses in front of us, or a catastrophic summer of bushfires.

Read more: Environment laws have failed to tackle the extinction emergency. Here’s the proof

Both tragedies are driven by climate change, caused by burning fossil fuels. It’s clear Australia should be looking to fix the glaring holes in our green safety net, not widen them.

May 21, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, politics | Leave a comment

The push to weaken Australia’s law regulating the uranium industry, in the review of Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act

Uranium, extinction, expedited approvals and extreme risks: the need for stronger environmental laws,   

By Mia Pepper – 14 May 2020

This year a Review Committee is examining the cornerstone of Australia’s environmental laws – the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999. This review comes hot on the heels of three inquiries into nuclear power driven by conservative politicians and pressure from the nuclear lobby. This cohort are pushing for the removal of laws banning nuclear power, a push the current federal government has already ruled out.

They are also pushing to weaken regulatory requirements for uranium mine assessments through the EPBC Act. There is currently no national prohibition on uranium mining, but prohibitions exist in Victoria, NSW, Queensland, WA, Tasmania and Victoria. SA and the NT have a long and contested history of supplying uranium to fuel nuclear power plants overseas. Uranium from SA and the NT fuelled the Fukushima reactor during the 2011 meltdowns, fires and explosions ‒ a discomforting legacy given that there was ample evidence long before the Fukushima disaster of corruption and inadequate safety standards in Japan’s nuclear industry.

Following the Fukushima disaster the UN Secretary General advised that Australia have “an in-depth assessment of the net cost impact of the impacts of mining fissionable material on local communities and ecosystems.” No such assessment has been carried out. Worse still, the appointment of a former uranium mining company executive to the EPBC Review Committee suggests that there may be some support within the government for a weakening of uranium mining regulations rather than the necessary strengthening.

The reality of uranium mining in Australia has been one of leaks, spills, accidents, license breaches and a failure to rehabilitate. Of the 15 uranium mines that have operated, just two are still mining (Olympic Dam and Beverley Four Mile), one is preparing for closure (Ranger), another is preparing for a second round of rehabilitation failing previous attempts (Rum Jungle), three are on life support in extended care and maintenance; and the remaining sites are all contaminated and require ongoing monitoring and maintenance at the expense of taxpayers.

That track-record strongly suggests the need for greater scrutiny and a strengthening not a weakening of regulations. Proposed changes by the nuclear industry include changing the definition of ‘nuclear actions’ in the EPBC Act to remove the “mining and milling” of uranium. The impact of this would reduce requirements for whole-of-environment assessments for uranium projects and reduce federal oversight. Existing processes desperately need improvement given recent failures around transparency, upholding principles and objects of environmental laws, political influence in decision making, expedited process and unfounded exemptions.

The Ranger uranium mine in the tropical NT, owned by Rio Tinto and operated by ERA, will begin rehabilitation in 2021, a project set to cost in excess of $1 billion. There are ongoing concerns about the funding and adequacy of the proposed rehabilitation. Meeting the regulatory requirement to secure radioactive wastes and other toxins from the environment for 10,000 years is inherently difficult, not least because there is a long history of routine, daily leakage of large volumes of contaminated liquid.

Not far from Ranger, the government-owned Rum Jungle mine has been leaking radioactive and acidic materials into the East Branch of the Finniss River since it was closed in 1971. The NT government has released new plans to remediate the site which is likely to cost in excess of $300 million, but there is still no commitment from the NT or Federal governments to fund this important work.

The legacy threats from uranium mines are unlike the threats from other mines and a repeated failure to contain this waste suggests that mining uranium should be banned, or at the very least have the strictest possible regulations.

There are many other examples of industry and regulatory failure. At the former uranium mine at Radium Hill in SA, the tailings dam was shoddily constructed and was not capped when the mine closed. The Port Pirie uranium treatment plant in SA is still contaminated over 50 years after its closure. SA regulators failed to detect a mining exploration company’s dumping of low-level radioactive waste in the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary. At the Beverley Four Mile in-situ leach uranium mine in SA, contaminated wastewater is routinely dumped in groundwater ‒ a process permitted by regulators who should know better.

In yet another regulatory failure, BHP’s proposal for a new tailing’s facility at its Olympic Dam copper/uranium mine in SA has been fast-tracked without requirements for federal approval. The decision not to assess the new tailings dam came after the Australian National Committee on Large Dams gave three existing tailings dams at Olympic Dam a risk ranking of ‘extreme’ – this ranking is given to tailings facilities that if failed would cause the death of over 100 people. The independent review of tailings followed the Samarco tailings disaster in Brazil, a joint venture project between BHP and Vale, which killed 19 people. The new proposed tailings should be assessed to determine the risk and likelihood of failure; instead, the facility has been fast-tracked avoiding scrutiny under the EPBC Act.

Cameco’s proposed Yeelirrie mine in WA provides another example of unseemly haste and unseemly exemptions. The WA EPA recommended that Yeelirrie not be approved because of the likelihood the mine would cause multiple species extinctions. Despite this recommendation the former State Environment Minister approved the mine weeks before losing his seat and the Liberal party lost Government in the 2017 WA election. In a similar scenario, the mine was given federal approval on the eve of announcing the 2019 federal election. That federal approval followed direct lobbying of Ministers and the Department and resulted in a set of conditions that no longer require the company to prove the mine won’t cause species extinction.

A 2003 report by the federal Senate References and Legislation Committee found “a pattern of underperformance and non-compliance” in the uranium mining industry and it concluded that changes were necessary “in order to protect the environment and its inhabitants from serious or irreversible damage”. The same could be said now. Subsequent reviews of uranium mining regulations in Queensland, WA and Canada identify unique risks with uranium mining and calls for improved and increased regulations that meet those specific challenges and risks.

The push from the industry to weaken regulations should be wholeheartedly rejected and instead the EPBC Committee could consider advice from former UN Secretary General to hold an “in-depth” assessment of the uranium sector and its impacts.

May 14, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, legal, politics, uranium | Leave a comment

Environment Minister Sussan Ley not to support protection of Murray-Darling river systems

Murray-Darling systems not assessed for endangered listing after officials warned Coalition would not support it
 FoI documents reveal struggling systems were ‘clear candidates’ for protection but Sussan Ley ‘unlikely to support’ it,  Guardian, Lisa Cox, Wed 13 May 2020 Struggling river and wetland systems in the Murray-Darling Basin were not assessed for listing as critically endangered after officials warned the Morrison government would not support protecting them.

Environment department staff said the two ecological communities were “clear candidates” for assessment for a critically endangered listing, documents released under freedom of information show. But the environment minister, Sussan Ley, was “unlikely to support” their inclusion on the 2019 list of species and habitats under consideration for protection, they told the threatened species scientific committee.

The department also told the committee the work required to do the assessment would have “significant resource implications”.

The two communities are known as the “wetland and inner floodplain of the Macquarie Marshes”, and the “Lower Murray River and associated wetlands, floodplains and groundwater systems from the junction of the Darling River to the sea”.

Both were listed as critically endangered by then environment minister Mark Butler in the final days of the Labor government in 2013.

After the Coalition won government, both listings were disallowed under the new environment minister, Greg Hunt. It followed a campaign against the critically endangered listings by the National Irrigators Council.

Humane Society International, the organisation behind the nomination that led to the 2013 listings, renominated the river and wetlands systems for assessment for a critically endangered listing last year.

In a briefing to the threatened species scientific committee, officials said a tool the department used for conservation assessments had ranked the two communities as the highest priorities from a conservation perspective among a group of five ecological communities nominated for listing in 2019.

But neither made it on to the proposed priority assessment list, which is given to the environment minister to consider before they determine the nominations that will make it on to the final list.

The briefing to the committee is the same document that led to Guardian Australia last week revealing the government had stopped listing major threats to species under national environmental laws…….

Labor’s environment spokeswoman, Terri Butler, said it was “outrageous” the Morrison government had not followed scientific advice. She said the government was attempting “to influence the outcomes of scientific processes designed to protect our environment”.

Richard Kingsford, the director of the Centre for Ecosystem Science at the University of New South Wales, said the scientific research on the two communities showed both had high levels of biodiversity and were degrading significantly as a result of reduced flooding.

“The question would be: why were they ruled out at that first step?” he said……


May 14, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, politics | Leave a comment

Minerals Council of Australia wants radiation risks to be discounted in Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act

Coronavirus: cut green tape delay on projects, miners say

Australia’s six peak mining and ­resources groups are pushing for a major overhaul of environmental laws, calling for the removal of “unnecessary duplication and complexity” to provide greater certainty for businesses.

In a joint submission to the independent review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, led by former Australian Competition & Consumer Commission chair Graeme Samuel, the mining sector warns companies are facing delay costs of up to $1m a day.

Minerals Council of Australia chief executive Tania Constable said Australia was facing an unprecedented economic and social threat from the COVID-19 pandemic, arguing reforms of the EPBC Act would help reduce ­delays in project approvals and fast-track projects.

Environment Minister Sussan Ley last month flagged reforms to the EPBC and the government’s commitment to cut green tape to “get rid of unnecessary delays”.

Professor Samuel will deliver an interim report by June and a final report by October. “We are getting congestion out of the system and we will continue to do so as the economy comes through the COVID-19 crisis,” Ms Ley said.

The MCA submission, co-signed by the NSW Minerals Council, Queensland Resources Council, the Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia, South Australian Chamber of Mines and Energy and the Tasmanian Minerals, Manufacturing and Energy Council, suggest four key points to improve the EPBC.

These include eliminating or reducing duplication and ensuring consistency between federal and state-territory processes, reducing delays in assessment and approval processes, improving certainty for businesses and ensuring better “fit-for-purpose regulation”.

Assessing regulatory duplication and uncertainty, the ’ submission ranks NSW and Victoria lower than less mature mining jurisdictions, including PNG and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Ms Constable said “pragmatic and considered policy reform can build a stronger minerals industry for a faster and more durable post-COVID-19 recovery”.

“When mining projects can take more than a decade to deliver, it’s clear better regulation can help deliver Australia’s economic recovery without compromising our precious environment,” she said.

“Reform to the act is long overdue to address unnecessary duplication and complexity.”

Ms Constable said a one-year delay to a project can reduce its net present value by 10 to 13 per cent per year. “For large mining projects (with a value from $3bn to $4bn), delay costs can be up to $1m per day,” she said. “Significant growth in regulation across all levels of government including the EPBC Act has not led to better environmental outcomes.”

The groups want uranium mining, milling decommissioning and rehabilitation removed from the definition of nuclear actions under the act, to help unlock the mineral sands industry. The EPBC trigger has captured non-uranium projects, including mineral sands, rare earths and base metals, where naturally occurring radioactive ­material may be present.

Ms Constable said Australia had the world’s largest mineral sands deposits, offering significant “opportunities for growth and jobs”. “Heavy mineral sands such as rutile, ilmenite (titanium) and zircon are essential inputs to everyday life including paint, medical implants and ceramics.”

“Many of Australia’s mineral sands deposits also contain monazite and xenotime, which are sources of the rare earth elements used in smart phones and computers, as well as medical devices.’’

May 11, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, uranium | Leave a comment

‘under cover of coronavirus’ New South Wales govt approves US company to mine coal beneath a Sydney drinking water dam

May 11, 2020 Posted by | environment, New South Wales, politics | Leave a comment

Australian government stops listing major threats to species under environment laws

May 9, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, politics | Leave a comment

Rampant, unmonitored use of water by Australia’s coal industry in time of drought!

May 3, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment | Leave a comment

Current Review of  Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC) ? – it’s all about promoting the polluters

The Government puts business ahead of the environment , Independent Australia, By Sue Arnold | 22 April 2020, The writing is on the wall for the environment. And it doesn’t look good.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has promised to:

‘Fast-track new and existing major infrastructure projects and adopt an aggressive pro-business strategy ahead of the October budget to help the country claw its way out of an expected virus-induced recession.’

Tax breaks for big business, deregulation and wide-scale industrial relations reform will form part of the Morrison Government’s attempts to lift the nation out of the economic black hole, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Environmental organisations, ecologists, wildlife shelters and Australia’s biodiversity are facing an Armageddon as a result of state and federal governments’ absolute failure to protect the environment in the face of a serious economic recession.

Yet this is the nation which has lost over one billion animals to the catastrophic bushfires. A nation with dying and dead ecosystems, and thousands of hectares of burned-out forests. The forests will take many years to recover and ecosystems may never be rehabilitated.

A glimpse of what’s in store can be gained from the current review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (‘EPBC Act’), undertaken under the chairmanship of Professor Graeme Samuel AC.

The review is required under the EPBC Act every ten years, to examine the operation of the legislation and the extent to which its objects have been met.

An expert panel was set up to support Professor Samuel.  Panel members include Bruce Martin, an inaugural member of the Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council and President of the Cape York Peninsula Live Export Group.

Dr Erica Smyth AC is a panel member with over 40 years’ experience in the mineral and petroleum industry, having worked for ten years in the oil and gas industry managing government approvals for offshore facilities, LNG and methanol facilities……

With no ecologists, environmental lawyers, or conservation organisations, the review and its panel completely fails the pub test.

It is important to note that in accordance with section 522A of the EPBC Act, the review is supposed to examine:

‘The operation of the Act; and

The extent to which the objects of the Act have been achieved.’

Added to the terms of reference is the following statement:

‘The review will make recommendations to modernise the EPBC Act and its operation to address current and future environmental challenges.’

The terms of reference may be at odds with section 522A of the Act, if the phrase ‘modernise the Act’ is interpreted as code for change to focus on economic growth at the expense of the environment.

Further evidence of the focus of the Government’s dirty business can be found on the EPBC website which lists as one of the objectives of the EPBC Act to:

‘Provide a streamlined national environmental assessment and approvals process.’ 

The legislation contains no such provision, and other objectives have also been changed ‘to promote the conservation of biodiversity” to ‘conserve Australia’s biodiversity’.

More importantly, the following legal objective wasn’t included:

‘To promote a cooperative approach to the protection and management of the environment involving governments, the community, land-holders and indigenous people.’

In October 2019, Environment Minister Sussan Ley said that cutting delays in project approvals could save the economy $300m a year,”  with the Morrison Government promising to “tackle green tape”.

No one should be surprised by the review’s focus or the outcome.

The review will be ‘guided by the principles’ which include:

……… Making decisions simpler, including by reducing unnecessary regulatory burdens for Australians, businesses and governments;

…….. Obviously, the first principle should be the predominant, sole guiding focus of the review given the catastrophic state of Australia’s biodiversity and environment.

Instead, the evidence of a drastically changed focus favouring the growth and the economy is made abundantly clear by the guiding principles and panel choices. There’s no explanation of the extraordinary failure to focus on the inability of the EPBC Act to have fulfilled any of its objectives.

April 17 was the final day for submissions to the review’s lengthy discussion paper. Six major environmental groups asked the Federal Government to delay the submission deadline and the review as a result of the chaos caused by the COVID-19 pandemic……..

Australia is currently cursed with governments and politicians who continue to ignore the environment.    It’s almost incomprehensible that after the bushfire catastrophes, the environment should sink to the bottom of the pile…….,13819

April 23, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, politics | Leave a comment

PLanning for waterways – a vital need, as Australia’s river systems are affected by global heating

April 21, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, environment | Leave a comment

Amid climate change threat to the Murray Darling river system, the States haggle

April 18, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, climate change - global warming, environment, water | Leave a comment

13 Australian peak Non Government Organisations seek stronger Environmental Law on Nuclear Issues

Joint ENGO Submission on Nuclear Issues as they Relate to the Environmental Protection & Biodiversity Conservation Act Review 2020

This submission is made on behalf of the following national and state peak environment groups:

    • Australian Conservation Foundation,
    • Australian Nuclear Free Alliance,
    • Friends of the Earth Australia,
    • Greenpeace Australia Pacific,
    • Mineral Policy Institute,
    • The Wilderness Society,
    • Arid Lands Environment Centre,
    • Environment Centre NT,
    • Environment Victoria,
    • Conservation Council SA,
    • Conservation Council WA,
    • Nature Conservation Council NSW and Queensland Conservation Council.

This submission outlines the importance of retaining s140A of the EPBC Act which prohibits nuclear power; the retention of uranium exploration and mining in the definition of a Nuclear Action and the inclusion of Nuclear Actions as a Matter of National Environmental Significance (MNES).

This submission is made in consideration of the broader objects and principles of the Act and is based on evidence from recent inquiries into both nuclear power and uranium mining. There is clear evidence that nuclear activities can have a significant environmental and public health risk and, in many cases, irreversible impacts, and this is consistent with the current dedicated legislative prohibitions for both nuclear power and scrutiny for uranium mining.

While the current Act does not include a prohibition on uranium mining we strongly advocate that there be a national ban on uranium mining consistent with state legal or policy prohibitions in New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania, Victoria and West Australia   Written by Mia Pepper, Jim Green, Dave Sweeney, David Noonan & Annica Schoo.

Summary of Recommendations


• that uranium mining and milling be included in s140A prohibitions as nuclear actions that the Minister must not approve, on the basis that the nuclear industry has failed to successfully remediate any uranium mine in Australia and has impacts inconsistent with the objects and principles of the EPBC Act.

• if the above recommendation is not adopted that uranium mining and milling remains within the definition of a ‘nuclear action’ and that nuclear actions continue to be listed as MNES and the protected matters continue to be listed as the ‘environment’ and so be subject to full environmental assessment at the state level

• DAWE to initiate an inquiry into the human and environmental impacts of uranium mining, as advised by the UN Secretary General following the Fukushima nuclear disaster, noting that Australian uranium was present in each of the Fukushima Daiichi reactors at the time of multiple reactor meltdowns

. • regulatory reform for existing operating mines • that the review committee recommend DAWE prioritise the rehabilitation of abandoned uranium mines and processing facilities, exploration sites and uranium mines that have been in care and maintenance for more than two years.

Nuclear Power:
• the retention of s140A of the EPBC Act 1999 which states “No approval for certain nuclear installations: The Minister must not approve an action consisting of or involving the construction or operation of any of the following nuclear installations: (a) a nuclear fuel fabrication plant; (b) a nuclear power plant; (c) an enrichment plant; (d) a reprocessing facility.”

Other Matters:
• a National Environmental Protection Authority be established
• the effectiveness of assessment bilateral agreements be reviewed, and approval bilateral agreements are not pursued
• legislate requirements for mine closure, address activities that are used to avoid mine closure and to work with states and territories to remediate existing legacy mine sites
• there be established internal process for DAWE to pursue the listing of newly identified species by referring to the Threatened Species Scientific Committee
• that the principles of free, prior and informed consent become a mandatory operational principle within the EPBC Act along with a governance mechanism to operationalise this principle……… .

April 17, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, legal, politics, reference | Leave a comment

A brief Submission to the the Review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999

I first tried to use their online formal submission form.  I found several of the questions they posed to be confusing, and obfuscated the issues.    So, I gave up on their form, and just wrote my own ideas


It is patently obvious that the EPBC Act is nowhere near strong enough  to protect Australia’s unique wildlife. A scorecard released recently by Australian National University researchers  reveals the worst environmental conditions in many decades, perhaps centuries, and confirms the devastating damage global warming and mismanagement are wreaking on our natural resources. Australia’s environmental condition score fell by 2.3 points in 2019, to a very low 0.8 out of ten. 1

It is obvious that the polluting industries, especially mining, are keen to further weaken Australia’s environmental protection laws.

Announcing the statutory review of the commonwealth’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC) last October, the Morrison government pitched it as an opportunity to weaken the Howard era laws even further and make it easier still for environmentally destructive projects to be approved.  2

A particular case for scrutiny is in the uranium/nuclear industry. A very telling example of the weakness of the EPBC Act is in the sudden approval given by the then Environment Minister, Melissa Price, for the Yeelirrie uranium project to go ahead, in complete contradiction of its rejection by  WA Environmental Protection Agency . The current EPBC Act specifies protection for species at risk of extinction.  Still, the approval went ahead, the EPBC Act apparently  a toothless tiger. 3

Australian governments, State and federal, are under relentless lobbying by the nuclear industry. There are several nuclear Inquiries going on at State level, and one Federal nuclear Inquiry.  Despite the clear knowledge of nuclear power’s high costs, safety dangers and terrorism risks, the global nuclear lobby’s push is to remove Australia’s nuclear prohibition laws. The EPBC Act contains two strong nuclear prohibitions, which should not be changed  – EPBC Act 1999 section 140A  No approval for certain nuclear installations and EPBC Act 1999 section 22  What is a nuclear action?


April 17, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, politics | Leave a comment

Call for Australian government to delay review of its Environment laws

April 16, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, politics | Leave a comment

Conservation Council of Western Australia stresses importance of submissions to strengthen environmental protection


K-A Garlick   Nuclear Free WA Campaigner, 10 Apr  20, The webinar, Yeelirrie – A Case for Environmental Law Reform was a great success, with a wealth of information from our four stellar speakers, on the urgent need for improved environmental laws using Yeelirrie as a case study for environmental law reform. We reviewed the Yelirrie uranium mine assessment process and how we can improve the agility in the Commonwealth environment department to identify and classify threatened and endangered species.

If you missed the webinar or would like to see the highlights again ~ click here for some great information to help you form your submission to the EPBC Act review.

Keynotes from the webinar, include;

  • The importance of retaining the prohibition of nuclear power and the retention of uranium exploration and mining and the inclusion of nuclear actions as a matter of national environmental significance (MNES) under the EPBC Act,
  • Environmental protection laws should protect against the extinction of species,
  • Opportunity to introduce a merits review in a reformed EPBC Act as an independent, expert court or tribunal to ensure worlds best practice for community participation, accountability and environmental protection,
  • We need an independent authority to administer the EPBC Act,
  • We need increased open and transparent assessment processes, and
  • We need a national EPA as there is no equivalent body at the federal level. A national EPA could undertake independent and technically expert assessments of projects, ensuring that the scientific evidence is put into focus.

The push for the nuclear industry and the Minerals Council of Australia to remove the prohibition on nuclear power and to remove the trigger for uranium mining is a serious push and real threat.

To retain these parts of the EPBC Act we encourage you to write a submission.

The new dont-nuke-the-climate website is a great tool to help you understand the nuclear issues and threat. There is a really useful nuclear ban page, to support your submission writing.  

Submissions are due 17 April 2020.

Make a submission to the The Independent Review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999

The committee ask that you complete and submit this cover page with any submission via e-mail or post. All submissions that include this cover sheet will be considered by the review.

April 9, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, environment, politics | Leave a comment