Welcome to the website of the Environmental Defender's Office of Western Australia (Inc)
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Who We Are
The EDO is a non-profit, non-government Community Legal Centre specialising in public interest environmental law. Our services include:
- providing community groups and individuals with free legal advice and representation on environmental issues,
- promoting environmental law reform, and
- undertaking community legal education.
"Empowering the community to protect the environment through law".
Protection of WA's environment by providing individuals and community groups with environmental legal services including advice, education, representation and opportunity to participate in reform of laws affecting the environment.
One Stop Shop
The Commonwealth Government’s ‘One Stop Shop’ for environmental approvals:
In October 2013, the Hon Greg Hunt MP, Minister for the Environment, announced that the Abbott Government had approved a framework for a ‘One Stop Shop’ for approval of environmental approvals. The purpose of this initiative was to create a single environmental assessment and approvals process under the Environment Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth) (EPBC Act) – delegated to States – for nationally protected matters for the avowed purpose of providing regulatory savings to business. Two types of bilateral agreements can be entered into by the Commonwealth and a state/territory: assessment bilateral agreements and approval bilateral agreements. If a proposed action is covered by an assessment bilateral agreement, then it is assessed by the federally-accredited state/territory but the proposed action still requires Commonwealth approval. If a proposed action is covered by an approval bilateral agreement, then it will be assessed and approved by the state/territory: No further approval is required from the Commonwealth under the EPBC Act.
Minister Hunt has now issued an invitation to comment on a draft approval bilateral agreement with Western Australia. The draft agreement provides for accreditation of Western Australian processes for the approval of actions that would otherwise have to be approved by the Commonwealth Government under the EPBC Act. All decisions relating to ‘accredited processes’ would be assessed by Western Australian agencies only, with no further referral to or approval by the Commonwealth Government being required, including for matters of national environmental significance.
The following website provides access to the draft approval bilateral agreement between the Commonwealth and the State of Western Australia and provides information on how to make submissions regarding the agreement: http://www.environment.gov.au/protection/environment-assessments/bilateral-agreements/wa
Submissions are due by 15th February 2015.
If you would like to make a submission and have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact the Environmental Defender’s Office on 9221 3030 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Pinnacles a mining-free zone
On the 17 December 2014, the Department of Mines and Petroleum (DMP) declared that the Pinnacles and the surrounding Red, Painted and Little Painted desert areas would be excluded from mining activities. This announcement came off the back of a first-time situation – access to the Pinnacles was excluded by DMP in response to a request by Westranch Holdings Pty Ltd (wholly owned by Norwest Energy) to amend its Mid West Exploration Permit. Westranch requested the amendment as the area is not prospective and the company has no intention to propose any future activity within the area. DMP’s Executive Director (Manager Petroleum Geology) Jeff Haworth, said that it would have been highly unlikely that exploration access to the Pinnacles would have been granted under the current regulatory framework in any case, but the new conditions to Westranch’s exploration permit provide greater clarity for the future. Mr Haworth further stated that DMP was pleased to receive the request, as it demonstrated a degree of corporate social responsibility on the part of Westranch.
At present, the approvals process for petroleum tenements involves a multi-agency assessment against several pieces of legislation before any activity can commence. Mr Haworth said DMP was reviewing its current processes for petroleum acreage release, citing the need for continuous improvement of regulatory standards, to ensure they are “in step with new scientific and technological advances, as well as changing social considerations.”
DMP’s media release can be accessed at: http://www.dmp.wa.gov.au/7105_21175.aspx
Iron Ore Proposal Rejected
EDOWA is extremely pleased with the WA Environmental Protection Authority’s (EPA) 26 Nov. 2014 decision to recommend rejection of Polaris Metals’ J5 and Bungalbin East Iron Ore Project (comprising 2 large, open-cut iron ore mines and associated infrastructure, proposed in banded iron formations within the Helena and Aurora Ranges Conservation Park, 100km north of Southern Cross) on grounds the proposal is “environmentally unacceptable”. EPA’s decision is available here: http://www.epa.wa.gov.au/NEWS/MEDIASTMNTSCHRMN/Pages/1December2014.aspx?pageID=440&url=NEWS/MEDIASTMNTSCHRMN.
As EDOWA members and supporters know, we’ve been representing three conservation groups who lodged objections to elements of the proposal in the Mining Warden’s Court back in May 2014. With Polaris’ concurrence, the Mining Warden adjourned proceedings on those objections until September 2015, in order to allow the WA EPA assessment process to run its course before addressing the groups’ objections under the Mining Act 1978. Polaris originally indicated it intended to contest whether the Warden had jurisdiction to hear the groups’ objections but, after EDOWA filed lengthy submissions demonstrating that the objections raised well-recognised public interest grounds, the company changed its mind and advised that it did not contest the Warden’s jurisdiction.
The EPA’s 26 Nov. 2014 decision follows close on the heels of its decision earlier in the month (Report 1532) that a similar iron mining proposal in the banded iron formations of Mt Karara, central Blue Hills, and Mungada Ridge of WA’s Midwest should likewise be rejected as environmentally unacceptable. That decision is available here: http://edit.epa.wa.gov.au/EPADocLib/Rep%201532%20Blue%20Hills%20APIB%20101114.pdf.
EPA’s decisions regarding both iron mining proposals acknowledge the critical importance of protecting banded iron formations from the effects of mining. These formations act as refugia for many endangered and endemic species of flora and fauna and are biodiversity hotspots, as well as unique landforms. In recognition of this, the State government has proposed protecting these critically important areas from mining and other development for the past 40 years but never implemented that protection.
In November, EDOWA assisted the groups in asking the Minister for Mines, Bill Marmion, to exercise his powers under the Mining Act to summarily terminate Polaris Metals’ pending mineral tenement applications and to declare the areas exempt from future applications or mining. No decision has been issued to date. Hopefully, with the EPA’s recent decisions, Minister Marmion will find it considerably easier to take the action sought by the groups.
(1 December 2014)
Proposed Mining Rejected
In the October 2014 edition of EDOnews, we discussed efforts to protect the unique landforms and biodiversity of Western Australia’s banded iron formations in the Midwest and Goldfields regions of the State. The State government has proposed protecting these critically important areas from mining and other development for the past 40 years (largely without success). EDOWA is currently representing groups in the Mining Warden’s Court who are pressing their objections to Polaris Metals’ proposed iron mining in banded iron formations near Mt Manning (in the Helena and Aurora Range Conservation Park). Polaris’ proposed mine is also awaiting an assessment decision by the EPA.
Among other things, EDOWA has assisted the groups in asking the Minister for Mines and Petroleum, Hon. William Marmion, to exercise his powers under ss 19 and 111A of the Mining Act 1978 to refuse the mining applications and exempt portions of the area from mining in the future. Minister Marmion has yet to act on the groups’ request.
However, some very welcome news was received today when the WA Environmental Protection Authority issued Report 1532 – recommending rejection of Sinosteel Midwest Corporation Limited’s “Blue Hills Mungada East Expansion” because “it cannot be managed to meet the EPA’s objective for Landforms and the proposal is environmentally unacceptable and should not be implemented” (EPA Report 1532, p 10 (Nov. 2014). Sinosteel’s proposed Mungada East mine is located in the banded iron formations of Mt Karara, central Blue Hills, and Mungada Ridge of WA’s Midwest. These formations are very similar to the formations in the Helena and Aurora Range that EDOWA is fighting to protect. The EPA’s rejection of Sinosteel’s proposal hopefully foreshadows the agency’s decision on Polaris Metals’ proposal in the Helena and Aurora Range Conservation Park and ought to provide further justification for Minister Marmion to use his powers to protect the Park’s formations even before EPA releases its decision on Polaris Metals’ tenement applications.
Stay tuned to EDOWA’s website and Facebook page for updates or call us (9221 3030) if you’d like to find out more or want to get involved.
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The EDO provides information factsheets over to members of the community in public interest environmental law matters.