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What happens when other statutory approvals are required?
The EES process is intended to inform decision-making under other Victorian legislation. The Minister administering the Environment Effects Act may direct that the relevant decision maker not make a decision until an EES is prepared and assessed.
The Act extends any prescribed time limit within which statutory decisions must be made by one month after the decision-maker receives the Minister’s assessment.
To facilitate timely decision-making, EES and related statutory approval procedures are often coordinated. This may include:
- seeking accreditation of the EES process as the required assessment process under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), where a project requiring an EES is also a controlled action under the EPBC Act
- coordinating public notification of statutory applications in conjunction with advertising and exhibition of the EES
- coordinating panel inquiry procedures under the Environment Effects Act with equivalent procedures under other Victorian legislation, for example the Planning and Environment Act 1987
- providing specific advice in the Minister’s assessment to inform relevant statutory and other decisions, under other Victorian legislation such as the Planning and Environment Act 1987, Environment Protection Act 2017, Pipelines Act 1967 (or subsequently the Pipelines Act 2005), Coastal Management Act 1995, Water Act 1989, Road Management Act 2004, Petroleum Act 1998, Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act 1982, Extractive Industries Development (Amendment) Act 2003 and Geothermal Energy Resources Act 2005.
Requirements of other Acts
Planning and Environment Act 1987
Section 4 of this Act establishes the objectives of planning in Victoria and provides for the Victoria Planning Provisions (VPP). The VPP sets the policy framework for planning in Victoria. The State Planning Policy Framework (SPPF), together with the Local Planning Policy Framework for each planning scheme, provide crucial guidance for decision-making. This legislative and policy framework is a key source for the evaluation of projects subject to assessment under the Environment Effects Act.
Where a project requires a planning scheme amendment and an EES, the proposed amendment may be exhibited concurrently. A panel appointed under the Planning and Environment Act will also be appointed as an inquiry under section 9(1) of the Environment Effects Act. The joint panel/inquiry will provide a single report to the Minister.
If a planning permit is needed for a project it should be exhibited in conjunction with an EES. To facilitate integrated planning for projects of State or regional significance, the Minister may ‘call-in’ permit applications under section 97B of the Planning and Environment Act. A permit ‘call-in’ requires a panel to be appointed under section 153 of the Planning and Environment Act to consider any submissions or objections. Where assessment under the Environment Effects Act is required, such a panel would be jointly appointed as an inquiry.
Environment Protection Act 2017
This Act provides the legislative framework for environment protection in Victoria, including the principles of environment protection. It is supported by the Environment Protection Regulations which provide further detail for duty holders on their obligations and permissions. The Environment Reference Standard (ERS) sets out the uses of the environment that Victorians value, and the indicators and objectives needed to support them. It provides a foundation for environmental monitoring and reporting. The ERS contains values, indicators and objectives for ambient air, water, ambient sound, and land environments.
Many industrial projects, and some mining and extractive industry projects, require a development licence from the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) under the Environment Protection Act. The Development Licence (DL) covers the design, construction and modification stages of complex projects.
The DL would then lead to an Operating Licence or Permit where specified in the Regulations, once the development activity has been completed, to enable the operational stage of the activity.
Projects requiring an EES are commonly subject to approval under the Environment Protection Act. To minimise duplication, the EPA and Department should provide advice to proponents on the extent of detail of technical design and operational aspects, as well as on the impact studies, that should be documented in the development licence application and EES.
The development licence application will normally be exhibited in conjunction with the EES for a project. Formal assessment of the application by the EPA would follow receipt of the Minister’s assessment under the Environment Effects Act.
Geothermal Energy Resources Act 2005
This Act provides a new framework for the large-scale commercial exploration and extraction of geothermal energy. Geothermal energy is vested in the Crown. Section 62 states that a planning permit is not required to carry out any geothermal energy extraction operation if an EES has been prepared and the Minister administering the Act has authorised the operation following consideration of the assessment of the Minister administering the Environment Effects Act.
Pipelines Act 1967
This Act applies to pipelines, including those carrying hydrocarbons at very high pressure. Section 12C requires that, where applicable, the Minister administering the Environment Effects Act be sent a copy of an application for a pipeline permit. If an assessment under the Environment Effects Act is prepared, section 12E states that the responsible Minister must consider the assessment of the Minister administering the Environment Effects Act of the environmental impacts of the proposed pipeline. When the Pipelines Act 1967 is repealed at the commencement of the Pipelines Act 2005, the equivalent of section 12E will apply in the new Act.
Petroleum Act 1998
This Act covers onshore petroleum exploration and development activities. Section 120 states that a planning permit is not required to carry out a petroleum production operation if an EES has been prepared and an assessment of the Minister administering the Environment Effects Act has been submitted to the Minister responsible for the Petroleum Act.
Coastal Management Act 1995
This Act provides for strategic planning for the management of coastal areas, through the development of a State-wide coastal strategy and through coastal action plans for specific areas. Section 37(1) of the Act requires the consent of the responsible Minister for the use and development of coastal Crown land, including Crown land in Victorian waters and 200 metres inland of the high water mark. Many coastal or marine projects that are subject to the EES process may also require approval under this Act.
Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Commonwealth)
The EPBC Act may apply to projects in Victoria independently of whether an EES is required. If a project is a “controlled action” under the EPBC Act, it requires approval by the Commonwealth Minister for Environment and Heritage.
Where a project is a controlled action, and an EES is required, the Commonwealth Minister may accredit the EES process on a case-by-case basis if the required assessment process satisfies the requirements of the EPBC Act. Accreditation enables a single assessment process to be applied to meet Victorian and Australian Government requirements. The scoping requirements for an accredited process should identify the relevant matters under the EPBC Act.
Page last updated: 25/08/23