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

The Minister for the Environment the Hon. Greg Hunt MP has approved all petroleum and greenhouse gas activities taken in Commonwealth waters in accordance with the Program Report - Strategic Assessment of the environmental management authorisation process for petroleum and greenhouse gas storage activities administered by the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority under the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006 (the Program) endorsed on 7 February 2014, subject to the exclusions described in the final approval decision notice. The Minister’s approval specifically excludes petroleum or greenhouse gas activities from occurring within the boundaries of any declared World Heritage area as defined under the EPBC Act, including the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

The Minister’s approval means entities seeking to undertake offshore petroleum or greenhouse gas activities in Commonwealth waters in accordance with the Program will no longer need to refer those actions for assessment under the EPBC Act. Under the new arrangements, environmental protection will be examined through the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority’s (NOPSEMA) decision-making processes.

Further information on the Minister’s decision can be found at: Media releases 2014

Background

A strategic assessment was undertaken of the environmental management authorisation process for petroleum and greenhouse gas activities administered by NOPSEMA.

Offshore petroleum and greenhouse gas activities were previously 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).

The streamlining process was initiated to create a ‘one stop shop’ for offshore petroleum and greenhouse gas activities in Commonwealth waters. It will deliver faster approvals and remove unnecessary duplication in regulatory processes while maintaining the integrity and standards of the environmental assessment process.

Australian Government Guidance on Relevance under the Program

Under the Program, the titleholder is required to consult with: each Department or agency of the Commonwealth to which the activities to be carried out under the environment plan, or the revision of the environment plan, may be relevant.

The Australian Government Departments of the Environment, Agriculture, Defence and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority and Australian Fisheries Management Authority have developed joint guidance for titleholders to assist in determining where they may be relevant for consultation purposes in developing or revising environment submissions in accordance with the endorsed Program.

Australian Government Guidance - Australian Government agencies’ roles and relevance under the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Act 2006 (PDF - 52.56 KB) | (DOCX - 42.21 KB)

This guidance does not preclude the need to consult with other agencies, including state or territory agencies, where there are particular agency interests. Titleholders are reminded of their obligations under the Program to conduct their own assessment of where an agency may be relevant.

Endorsement and approval

On 7 February 2014, the Program was endorsed under part 10 of the EPBC Act.

Endorsement notice (PDF - 190.3 KB) | (DOC - 95 KB)

Streamlining Offshore Petroleum Environmental Approvals - Program report (PDF - 1.74 MB) | (DOCX - 2.14 MB)

On 27 February 2014, an approval was granted for a class of actions under the endorsed Program to proceed without the need for further approval from the Australian Government Environment Minister.

Final approval decision (PDF - 1001.48 KB) | (DOC - 92.5 KB)

Note the NOPSEMA regulations and the Program specifically exclude petroleum or greenhouse gas activities from occurring within the boundaries of any declared World Heritage area as defined under the EPBC Act, including the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

The strategic assessment documentation is available on the Department of Industry’s website at: Streamlining Offshore Petroleum Environmental Approvals

What does the commencement of the Program mean for referrals under the EPBC Act which are currently in place?

Where activities have existing EPBC Act approvals these will continue to apply and any conditions attached must be implemented, monitored and reported to the Department of the Environment as required in the conditions of approval. Activities which have EPBC Act approval must also have an accepted Environment Plan under the OPGGS Act.

The Department will contact proponents that have current EPBC Act referrals or assessments under consideration to discuss options for proceeding.

Fact sheets to clarify options for proponents can be found on the Department of Industry’s website at: Streamlining Offshore Petroleum Environmental Approvals

Public comment

The draft Program Report and draft Strategic Assessment Report were released by the Minister for Industry for public comment for 28 days from 22 November 2013 to 20 December 2013. Information about the NOPSEMA strategic assessment and how to make a public submission is available on the Department of Industry’s website at: Streamlining Offshore Petroleum Environmental Approvals

Strategic assessment agreement

The Minister for the Environment, the Hon Greg Hunt MP, Minister for Industry, the Hon Ian Macfarlane, and CEO of NOPSEMA, Jane Cutler, signed a Strategic Assessment Agreement on 24 October 2013. The Agreement described 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.

Streamlining Offshore Petroleum Environmental Approvals - Agreement (PDF - 194.3 KB)(DOCX - 59.42 KB)

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.

The Strategic Assessment Agreement sets out the strategic assessment process where the proponent (Department of Industry and NOPSEMA) prepared a Program 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 assessed the impacts on protected matters, was also prepared.

Further information

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