Environmental impact assessments
Under s158 of the Act the Australian Government Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts (the Minister) may exempt a person proposing to take an action from the requirement to conduct an environmental assessment and/or obtain approval in relation to the action to which the exemption relates. Under s158 the Minister may exempt a person from any or all steps in the assessment and approvals process. However, the Minister may only grant an exemption under s158 if he is satisfied that it is in the national interest to do so.
Listed species and ecological communities permits
Under s303A of the Act the Minister may exempt a person proposing to undertake an action from the requirement to seek permits under Part 13 of the Act in relation to the action to which the exemption relates. Part 13 of the Act, among other things, prohibits the killing, injuring, taking, trading, keeping or moving listed threatened species or ecological communities, listed migratory species, cetaceans, or listed marine species in or on a Commonwealth area. The Minister may specify that any or all prohibitions in Part 13 do not apply to a person in relation to an action to which an exemption relates. However, the Minister may only grant an exemption under s303A if satisfied that it is in the national interest to do so.
Under ss28(3) the Minister may make a declaration to exempt actions that are necessary for Australia's defence or security or in relation to preventing, mitigating or dealing with a national emergency.
Under ss28(4) and ss28(5) the Minister may make a declaration that actions or a class of actions to be undertaken by a Commonwealth agency are exempt from assessment and approval processes. However, the Minister must be satisfied that the Commonwealth agency will comply with state/territory environment protection laws when undertaking the action or class of actions to which the declaration applies.
The Minister is required under the Act to publish all notices of exemption under sections 158 and 303A and the reasons for granting the exemptions.