A change to environmental laws currently before the Senate could potentially prevent legal challenges to the Federal Government’s decisions in December 2013 to approve the Abbot Point coal terminal expansion, the $20 billion Arrow Liquefied Natural Gas Facility on Curtis Island and the transmission pipeline to the island, as well as Clive Palmer’s Waratah Coal mine in the Galilee Basin.
If the amendments pass the Senate, it would mean that if the Minister was required to consider “approved conservation advice” when approving the projects and he failed to consider such advice, this avenue for appeal would be shut down.
The changes were originally proposed to adjust for the recent Federal Court decision on the Tarkine National Park in Tasmania.
The Australian Network of Environmental Defender’s Offices (ANEDO) oppose the changes proposed in the Bill, as they will retrospectively remove what was a mandatory requirement for decision-making under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act).
ANEDO’s position is that this measure dilutes a requirement to consider scientific advice, removes accountability of the Minister and department for failing to follow the law, is contrary to best practice and is inconsistent with the achievement of the objects of the EPBC Act.
The senate inquiry reporting date is set for 12 February 2014.