Australian new environment agency to speed up approvals

  • : Coal, Crude oil, Metals, Natural gas
  • 24/04/16

The Australian federal government announced today it will introduce new legislation in the coming weeks to implement the second stage of its Nature Positive Plan, which includes setting up a national environment protection agency to speed up approval decisions.

The planned Environment Protection Australia (EPA) will initially operate within the Department of Climate Change, Energy, Environment and Water until it transitions to become an independent statutory agency, with "strong new powers and penalties" to better enforce federal laws, the government said on 16 April.

The EPA chief will be an independent statutory appointment, similar to the Australian federal police commissioner, so that "no government can interfere" with the new agency's enforcement work. The agency will be able to audit businesses to ensure they are compliant with environment approval conditions and issue environment protection orders to anyone breaking the law. Penalties will be increased, with courts able to impose fines of up to A$780mn ($504mn) or jail terms for up to seven years in cases of extremely serious intentional breaches of federal environment law.

EPA will also be tasked with speeding up development decisions, including project assessments in areas such as renewable energy and critical minerals. Almost A$100mn will be allocated to optimise the approval processes, with its budget directed to support staff to assess project proposals and help businesses comply with the law.

A new independent body Environment Information Australia (EIA) will also be created to provide environmental data to the government and the public through a public website. EIA will need to develop an online database giving businesses quicker access to data and helping EPA to make faster decisions. It will also need to publish state of environment reports every two years.

The government said that an audit ordered by environment minister Tanya Plibersek last year found that around one in seven developments could be in breach of their offset conditions, when a business had not properly compensated for the impact a development was having on the environment, highlighting "the need to urgently strengthen enforcement".

The planned new legislation is part of the federal government's reform of Australia's environmental laws including the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. Resource project decisions are currently made by the environment minister, with the move to an independent agency will removing any perception of political interference in such decisions, the government said when it first announced the reforms in late 2022.

The first stage of the reform was completed late last year with new laws passed to create the Nature Repair Market, with further stages expected to be implemented in the future, the government said.

Tight timing

Resources industry body the Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia (CMEWA) welcomed the announcement that the federal government will take a "staged approach" to the implementation of the reforms but noted the timing of EPA's implementation was "tight".

"We continue to hold reservations about the proposed decision-making model and will continue to advocate for a model that balances ecologically sustainable development considerations and includes the [environment] minister as the decision maker," CMEWA chief executive Rebecca Tomkinson said.

The Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) said that it had been advocating for the creation of EIA, whose future collated data "will provide greater certainty and reduced costs for both government and project proponents", which "may shave years off project development". But it was cautious about potential "unintended consequences" stemming from more bureaucracy.

"Australia has one of the most comprehensive environmental approvals processes in the world and the MCA has been clear about the significant risks of duplicative, complex and uncertain approvals processes pose to the minerals sector, the broader economy and the environment if we do not get this right," it warned.


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24/06/14

FAA, EASA probe Boeing, Airbus Ti parts

FAA, EASA probe Boeing, Airbus Ti parts

Houston, 14 June (Argus) — The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) are investigating whether falsified documents were used to verify the authenticity of titanium used in parts manufactured by Spirit Aerosystems and others for Boeing and Airbus jets. The US probe arose after Boeing alerted the federal regulator that material was procured through a distributor "who may have falsified or provided incorrect records," the FAA told Argus . The FAA is looking into the scope and impact of the issue. The EASA was notified by the Italian Civil Aviation Authority (Enac) of the issue and has subsequently started an investigation to determine if the traceability issue also has safety implications, an EASA spokesperson told Argus . There is currently no evidence of a safety issue in the fleet, it added, but it will investigate the root cause and monitor new developments. "This is about titanium that has entered the supply system via documents that have been counterfeited," a Spirit spokesperson told Argus . Boeing added that the issue affected some titanium shipments received by a "limited set of suppliers," including its fuselage maker Spirit, and relates to a "very small number of parts" on any of its aircraft. Boeing declined to specify on which programs and for what components the titanium in question was used, but it said the correct titanium alloy was used. Affected parts were produced from 2019-2023, Spirit said. Boeing is removing suspect parts on its planes before delivering them to customers for compliance purposes, but confirmed its in-service fleet is safe to operate based on an internal analysis, it said. Airbus confirmed the airworthiness of its A220 aircraft after conducting "numerous tests" on parts coming from the same source of supply, and said it is working in close collaboration with its supplier, an Airbus spokesperson told Argus . Spirit removed the units from production and performed over 1,000 tests to ensure the "mechanical and metallurgical properties" of the titanium continued to meet airworthiness standards. Spirit supplies an array of parts to Airbus and Boeing including fuselages, pylons, and wing structures. Titanium alloys are typically used in engine components such as turbines and compressor blades, landing gears and fasteners. Aerospace companies including Airbus and Boeing earlier this year formed a coalition to help prevent unauthorized parts from entering the supply chain. It followed actions taken by CFM International, and its parent companies GE Aerospace and Safran Aircraft Engines, last years in response to engine parts sold by British distributor AOG Technics with forged documents. By Alex Nicoll and Samuel Wood Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

S Africa's ANC, DA agree to form government


24/06/14
24/06/14

S Africa's ANC, DA agree to form government

Cape Town, 14 June (Argus) — South Africa's African National Congress (ANC) and Democratic Alliance (DA) political parties today agreed to form a government while the first sitting of the new parliament was underway. The agreement, which includes the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), paves the way for ANC leader Cyril Ramaphosa to be re-elected president. The parties will assume various positions in government broadly in proportion to their share of seats. The government of national unity (GNU) agreement is the result of two weeks of intense negotiations after the ANC lost its long-held majority in the national election on 29 May. It secured 40.2pc of the vote, and the centre-right, pro-market DA retained its position as the official opposition with 21.8pc. The deal scuppers the possibility of an alliance between the ANC and the two largest left-wing parties, MK (uMkhonto weSizwe) and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), which credit ratings agency Fitch warned could pose risks to macroeconomic stability . MK party unseated the EFF in the election to come third, winning 14.6pc of the vote. The EFF secured 9.5pc, and the IFP came a distant fifth with 3.85pc. The MK and EFF are populist parties that campaigned on agendas including wide-scale land expropriation without compensation, nationalisation of economic assets — including mines, the central bank and large banks and insurers — halting fiscal consolidation and aggressively increasing social grants. The GNU parties agreed the new administration should focus on rapid economic growth, job creation, infrastructure development and fiscal sustainability. Other priorities include building a professional, merit-based and non-partisan public service, as well as strengthening law enforcement agencies to address crime and corruption. Through a national dialogue that will include civil society, labour and business, parties will seek to develop a national social compact to enable South Africa to meet its developmental goals, they said. The GNU will take decisions in accordance with the established practice of consensus, but where no consensus is possible a principle of sufficient consensus will apply. By Elaine Mills Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

Inpex invests in Australian solar, battery project


24/06/14
24/06/14

Inpex invests in Australian solar, battery project

Tokyo, 14 June (Argus) — Japanese upstream firm Inpex has decided to invest in a hybrid solar and battery project in the Australian state of New South Wales, aiming to boost its renewable energy business abroad. Inpex reached a final investment decision on the Quorn Park Hybrid project in Australia, a joint venture project with Italian utility Enel's wholly-owned Australian renewable energy firm Enel Green Power Australia (EGPA), the Japanese firm announced on 14 June. The project consists of solar farm construction and power generation with a photovoltaic and battery system. Batteries are usually a necessary back-up power source to stabilise power grids that utilise renewable energy. The project aims to produce around 210GWh/yr from solar power with around 40MWh/yr from battery storage, according to EGPA, with an operational capacity of around 98MW for solar and 20MW for battery. The firms plan to start construction during the second half of 2024, before it starts commercial operations during the first half of 2026, according to an Inpex representative that spoke to Argus . The Japanese firm did not disclose the investment amount but the investment value for construction of the project is estimated at "over $190mn", according to EGPA's website. Inpex bought a 50pc stake in EGPA in July 2023, with an aim of expanding its renewable generation portfolio. The firm regards Australia as a "core area" for boosting its renewable energy business, according to Inpex. By Yusuke Maekawa Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

Renewable natural gas not ‘major’ for climate: Chevron


24/06/13
24/06/13

Renewable natural gas not ‘major’ for climate: Chevron

New York, 13 June (Argus) — The growth of renewable natural gas (RNG) production is great news for the climate, but "to say that it is having a major impact by itself is difficult," the president of Chevron's global gas division said this week at an industry gathering. The US oil major, which has invested in RNG facilities in California , Michigan and elsewhere in recent years, has also boosted its conventional gas production on the heels of a crude-focused acquisition of a Denver-based producer. "I don't want to get called out (for) greenwashing or whatever because the volume is just very small compared to the overall portfolio," Chevron gas division president Freeman Shaheen said at the Northeast LDC Gas Forum in Boston, Massachusetts. Advocates for RNG hail the fuel, comprising methane from landfills and animal waste projects that is processed into pipeline-quality gas, as a boon for the climate. This is not only because its use displaces conventional natural gas produced in hydrocarbon drilling — so-called ‘fossil gas' — but because its production takes methane that would have been released directly into the atmosphere and burns it as fuel, releasing CO₂ — a less potent greenhouse gas — instead. But RNG today comprises just 0.5pc of the North American gas market. Even with continued policy support and technological development, Wood Mackenzie projects it will grow to just 4 Bcf/d (113mn m³/d), or 3pc of the market, by 2050. This is why some policymakers, such as Massachusetts' utilities regulatory, have rejected gas distributors' calls to decarbonize the gas system with RNG. The energy industry simply has not invested enough in RNG over the past several decades for it to reach the scale needed to play a bigger role in cutting emissions, Shaheen said. By Julian Hast Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

UK political parties repeat existing stances on energy


24/06/13
24/06/13

UK political parties repeat existing stances on energy

London, 13 June (Argus) — The two main UK political parties have set out their plans, including on energy and climate change, with just three weeks until the general election. Energy security and the cost to consumers is a recurring theme for both, but the manifestos present some marked differences in approach to the energy transition. Both the incumbent Conservative and opposition Labour parties doubled down on existing positions in their respective manifestos. The Conservative party said that it remains committed to the UK's 2050 net zero emissions target, but promises a "pragmatic and proportionate" route. The party's manifesto guarantees "no new green levies or charges while accelerating the rollout of renewables". The UK's net zero goal is legally-binding, and was passed with significant cross-party support under a Conservative government in 2019. The Conservatives have been in power since 2010, and fielded five prime ministers in that time. Recent polling data show a substantial lead for Labour, which performed well at local elections in May. Labour placed strong focus on the opportunity the transition offers, saying that it would place the UK at the "forefront of climate action by creating the green jobs of the future at home and driving forward the energy transition on the global stage". The party has committed to zero-carbon power by 2030, although it would "maintain a strategic reserve of gas power stations to guarantee security of supply", it said. The Conservative manifesto reiterates the party's plans to build new gas-fired power plants. The party had previously committed to a decarbonised power grid by 2035, in line with a G7 pledge, although that is not mentioned in its manifesto. The two main parties clearly diverge on their approaches to North Sea oil and gas production. The Conservatives aim to keep the windfall tax — which effectively results in a 75pc rate — on oil and gas producers in place "until 2028-29, unless prices fall back to normal sooner". Labour confirmed plans to lift the rate to 78pc and run the tax until the end of the next parliament, which is likely to be mid-2029. Labour is also clear that it "will not revoke existing licences" in the North Sea, but it will not issue any new licences — for oil, gas or coal. The Conservatives restated the party's aim to legislate for annual North Sea licensing rounds . Both parties back nuclear energy, including small modular reactors — though those are unlikely to be operational until after 2030. And both pledge to cut planning bureaucracy and tackle grid connections. Labour's plans to "double onshore wind, triple solar power, and quadruple offshore wind by 2030" would result in installed capacity of 31GW, 48GW and 59GW, respectively, from a baseline of end-2023. The Conservatives' target to triple offshore wind by the end of the next parliament would put installed capacity at 44GW in 2029 — below the 50GW target for 2030 set in 2022 — while it said it supports solar and onshore wind in some circumstances. Finance in focus Both parties are keen to pull in private-sector investment, while Labour took up an original Conservative pledge to "make the UK the green finance capital of the world". And both pledge to address the cost of energy for consumers — Labour through local power generation projects and home insulation upgrades, and the Conservatives by ruling out any further "green levies". The latter plans to reverse London's expansion of the ultra-low emissions zone — originally planned by Conservative then-mayor and later prime minister Boris Johnson. Labour said that it would restore a phase-out date of 2030 for new internal combustion engine cars — which prime minister Rishi Sunak in September pushed back to 2035 . On an international level, both parties mention climate leadership at summits such as UN Cops. The Conservatives pledged to "ring-fence" the UK's climate finance commitments, while Labour committed to restore development spending to 0.7pc of gross national income "as soon as fiscal circumstances allow". By Georgia Gratton Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

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