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The guideline for stronger environmental laws to prevent Queensland taxpayers picking up multimillion dollar environmental clean-up bills takes effect today (Friday) following extensive industry and public consultation.
“The Environmental Protection (Chain of Responsibility) Amendment Act 2016 came into effect last year after being passed with the bipartisan support of the Queensland Parliament,” Environment Minister Dr Steven Miles said.
“The statutory guideline provides direction about how the Act will be applied, giving confidence to industry and the community about how these new powers will be used.
“The guideline will give business and the community confidence that the new powers will be used in a consistent, transparent and fair manner to achieve the best outcome for the community and the environment.
“It will direct the government’s use of these powers to ensure they benefit the community and will address any uncertainty industry and other stakeholders have about the reach of the new laws.
“The Chain of Responsibility laws allow environmental and rehabilitation obligations to be enforced against ‘related persons’of companies in financial difficulty, to ensure that the community doesn’t carry the costs of cleaning up after industry.
“Queenslanders must have confidence that our land, waters and natural environment will be protected from unscrupulous operators.”
Dr Miles said a detailed and transparent process was undertaken to draft the guideline, providing stakeholders with a genuine opportunity to contribute to the implementation of these important new laws.
“In November 2016, a draft version of the guideline was released for public consultation,” Dr Miles said.
“Over the course of the guideline’s development, the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection considered feedback from a range of stakeholders”.
A working group of key stakeholders was set up in May 2016 to inform the guideline’s development.
The group included stakeholders from industry sectors and community groups, including Queensland Resources Council, Australian Institute of Company Directors, Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, Environmental Defenders Office Qld, Queensland Law Society, Australian Bankers’ Association, and Australian Restructuring Insolvency & Turnaround Association (ARITA).
“Members dedicated significant time and effort to this process,” Dr Miles said.
“I acknowledge and thank the working group members for their commitment in producing the guideline –their assistance in fine-tuning the guideline was invaluable.”
Public interest lawyers Environmental Defenders Office Queensland (EDO Qld) welcomed today's commencement of the guideline.
“The Environmental Protection (Chain of Responsibility) Amendment Act 2016 provides new tools for government to hold mining and other industrial projects accountable for any unlawful environmental harm they may cause,” EDO Qld CEO Jo-Anne Bragg said.
“This is a win for Queensland’s environment and community and, as public interest lawyers, we look forward to watching Minister Miles and his team ensure the new tools under the legislation are used effectively.”
The guideline is available on the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection’s website at www.ehp.qld.gov.au.