Environmental laws will not be swept aside because of the state of disaster that has been declared to address the energy crisis, Forestry, Fisheries and Environment Minister Barbara Creecy has assured.
The minister was speaking on Friday at a briefing on the national state of disaster on energy.
Earlier this week, the regulations for the state of disaster were issued. It indicated that environmental authorisation decision-making processes could be streamlined.
“Whether all environmental law will be swept aside, and I think the answer is no,” Creecy said in response to questions about the implications of the regulations. The minister explained the regulations do not promote exemptions from environmental law. “And it is not our intention to start producing blanket exemptions from those provisions,” Creecy added.
Creecy explained that the primary approach of her department is to expedite decision-making around environmental applications, licences and permissions.
This is currently applied to Strategic Infrastructure Projects – whereby decision-making on Environmental Impact Assessment processes has been shortened from 107 days to 57 days.
Front of the queue
“We found that that was an effective mechanism,” Creecy said. The aim is, should it be necessary, these shortened timelines to be applied more generally to respond to the energy crisis.
For example, anything regarding the state of disaster that requires an Environmental Impact Assessment would be brought to the “front of the queue”, ahead of other applications the department is dealing with.