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Strategic assessment of the environment management authorisation process for offshore petroleum activities under the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006

The Australian Government is undertaking a strategic assessment of the regulation of petroleum activities in Commonwealth waters as part of its commitment to 'one stop shop' approvals.

Offshore petroleum activities are currently subject to regulation under both the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) and the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006 (OPGGS Act) and its associated Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage (Environment) Regulations 2009 (OPGGS Environment Regulations).

Why is a strategic assessment being undertaken?

A strategic assessment is being undertaken of the environmental management authorisation process for petroleum activities administered by the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA).

The strategic assessment will consider endorsement of NOPSEMA’s process. If endorsed, the Minister for the Environment may approve petroleum activities assessed under this regime as no longer requiring consideration under the EPBC Act. This means that only one approval process will be required for offshore petroleum activities.

Strategic assessments are undertaken in accordance with the national environmental law, specifically section 146 of the EPBC Act, which provides for a strategic assessment of a policy, plan or programme and the likely cumulative impacts of a number of actions (information on strategic assessments is at www.environment.gov.au/epbc/assessments/strategic.html).

Where is the strategic assessment up to?

The Minister for the Environment, the Hon Greg Hunt MP, Minister for Industry, the Hon Ian Macfarlane, and CEO of NOPSEMA, Jane Cutler, have signed a Strategic Assessment Agreement. The Agreement describes the process to be followed for the strategic assessment and relevant requirements under the national environmental law. Terms of Reference (ToR) for the content of the strategic assessment are attached to the Agreement.

Draft terms of reference (ToR) for the strategic assessment were released for public comment from 16 August 2013 to 13 September 2013. The ToR were finalised taking into account relevant comments.

What are the next steps?

The Strategic Assessment Agreement sets out the strategic assessment process where the proponent (Department of Industry and NOPSEMA) prepares a Programme Report outlining the OPGGS environmental management authorisation process for protection and management of protected matters under the EPBC Act. An accompanying Strategic Assessment Report, which assesses the impacts on protected matters if the Programme is implemented, will also be prepared.

The Programme and Strategic Assessment Reports are released for public comment

The EPBC Act requires the Programme and Strategic Assessment Reports be released for a minimum 28 day public comment period later in the strategic assessment process. A notice of the availability of these reports for public comment will be sent to all parties making comment on the draft ToR.

Following public comment on the Programme and Strategic Assessment Reports, a report will be prepared summarising the public comments received and how they are addressed in the final Programme and Strategic Assessment Report.

When finalised, the Programmee and Strategic Assessment Report would be submitted to the Australian Government Environment Minister for endorsement. The Minister may either request modifications or endorse the Programme. If the Programme is endorsed, the Minister may consider approving actions or classes of actions to be taken in accordance with the endorsed Programme. This approval is a legal step that would allow activities identified in the endorsed Programme to proceed without the need for further approval from the Australian Government under the EPBC Act.

Current petroleum activities under consideration

There will be no impact on proposed petroleum activities currently under consideration.

Companies currently proposing petroleum activities are expected to continue to consider their obligations to refer proposals for consideration under the EPBC Act on a case by case basis. They are also required to meet the requirements of the OPGGS Act and the OPGGS Environment Regulations.

Further information

Queries specific to this strategic assessment should be directed to the Department of Industry.

For general enquiries about strategic assessments, or the EPBC Act, please contact the department's Community Information Unit on 1800 803 772.