Last Updated: April 21, 2017

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Abbot Point, coal & Caley Valley Wetlands: what’s the legal situation?

11 April 2017

Environmental regulation of T1 coal terminal

You may have seen news reports of what looks like spillage from the Abbot Point coal terminal into the Caley Valley Wetlands in the aftermath of Cyclone Debbie. What Environmental regulation applies to the T1 coal terminal?

  • Abbot Point Bulk Coal Pty Ltd (APBC) were required to obtain an environmental authority (EA) under the under the Environmental Protection Act 1994 (Qld) (EP Act) to conduct the environmentally relevant activities (ERAs) of bulk material handling (ERA 50-(1a)) and sewage treatment (ERA 63(1)(b)(i)) on land adjacent to the Caley Valley Wetlands at Abbot Point. Abbot Point Bulk Coal Pty Ltd (APBC) currently holds an environmental authority for the T1 coal terminal at Abbot Point.
  • Under the EP Act it is an offence to unlawfully cause serious or material environmental harm.However, an act causing environmental harm won’t be ‘unlawful’ if it is authorised under an environmental authority (EA).
  • APBC’s EA for coal stockpiling only permits discharges to waters at two locations if it meets certain water quality criteria including, for example, that suspended solids are below 30mg/L.
  • It is an offence to contravene a condition of an environmental authority.
  • APBC obtained a temporary emissions licence (TEL) to increase the release limits for total suspended solids from 30 mg/L to 100 mg/L during a 4 day period from 27 March 2017 to 30 March 2017 at two locations.
  • It is an offence to contravene a condition of a TEL.
  • It is also an offence to place a contaminant where serious or material environmental harm may be caused.

Want to know more? Click here for more detailed information with footnotes and links.