- geological conditions and features
- soil and geo-technical hazards
- hydrology and quality of surface, ground and marine waters
- geomorphological processes
- air quality
- energy consumption
- greenhouse gas emissions
- waste generation & management
- integrity of built structures.
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The set of matters to be investigated and documented in an EES is the scope of an EES. The detailed scope for an EES is set out in the ‘scoping requirements’ issued for each project by the Minister.
How will scoping requirements be developed?
To assist scoping, the proponent should provide a preliminary list of issues to be investigated and a draft study program. The Minister will consider this information from the proponent together with advice from relevant agencies and authorities in preparing draft scoping requirements.
The draft scoping requirements for a project are generally prepared within 20 business days of receiving the required information from the proponent. The draft scoping requirements will then be released for comment by interested parties for a minimum of 15 business days. The proponent is asked to pay for advertising costs for notices in at least one daily newspaper and in one or more local paper circulating in the area of the rural or regional project.
Scoping requirements will normally be finalised within 15 business days of the close of the public comment period and made publicly available on this website.
Scoping requirements can be amended during the preparation of an EES if substantive technical clarifications are needed, significant changes to a project proposal occur or unforeseen and significant issues are identified. The proponent will be consulted before changes are made.
What consultation occurs during the preparation of an EES?
As part of the preparation of an EES, the proponent has responsibility for informing the public and consulting with stakeholders. Stakeholders include potentially affected and interested parties.
The proponent is required to prepare and implement a consultation plan. A draft plan, together with a preliminary listing of stakeholder issues, should be provided to us for consideration. We will advise the proponent on the refinement of the plan so that it provides for effective consultation. Once the plan is finalised, it will be published on this website.
The proponent should ensure that potential stakeholders have access to information about the consultation plan and make copies of the plan available on request. There may be a need to provide access to information (in a summary form) in languages other than English, depending on the cultural backgrounds of social groups potentially affected by a project.
Where a project may affect Aboriginal cultural heritage or other Indigenous interests, the proponent’s representative should make early contact with relevant Indigenous organisations to identify matters of interest and discuss opportunities for their involvement.
What is a Technical Reference Group?
The process for preparing an EES will normally include the establishment of a Technical Reference Group (TRG). A TRG is specifically appointed for a project to advise on the preparation of an EES.
A TRG’s membership is drawn from bodies such as Government agencies, regional authorities and municipal councils that have a statutory or policy interest in the project.
The proponent will participate in TRG meetings, by providing information and discussing relevant issues.
What does a Technical Reference Group do?
The primary role of a TRG is to advise:
- the Department on matters that should be included in the scoping requirements for an EES
- the proponent on the need for and adequacy of technical EES studies in terms of their consistency with good practice standards of methodology and analysis
- the Department on the technical adequacy of the proposed EES, as well as the adequacy of its response to relevant matters.
The TRG provides advice and assistance to the proponent on:
- required statutory approvals and coordination of procedures
- relevant policy provisions and related information requirements
- study briefs and methodologies for key studies
- availability of relevant data sets and research
- conformity of the proposal and EES studies with policy and statutory requirements
- design and implementation of the proponent’s consultation plan
- adequacy of EES specialist study reports.
Agencies and authorities participating in a TRG are expected to provide accurate and timely advice regarding matters for which their organisations have specific responsibility.
What should be included in an EES?
The content of an EES will be guided by the scoping requirements set for each project by the Minister, following advice from the Department.
Scoping requirements and EES documentation should be prepared in the context of the principles of a systems approach and proportionality to risk.
A systems approach involves the consideration of potentially affected environmental systems and interacting environmental elements and processes. This will enable potential interdependencies to be identified, helping to focus relevant investigations and identify opportunities to avoid, mitigate or manage adverse effects. An inter-disciplinary approach should be adopted where appropriate.
A risk-based approach should be adopted in the assessment of environmental effects so that suitable, intensive, best practice methods can be applied to accurately assess those matters that involve relatively high levels of risk of significant adverse effects and to guide the design of strategies to manage these risks. Simpler or less comprehensive methods of investigation may be applied to matters that can be shown to involve lower levels of risk.
Implementation of a risk-based approach means that a staged study design may be appropriate. The initial phase of investigation will characterise environmental assets that may be affected, potential threats arising from a project and the potential environmental consequences. This phase will enable the design of any necessary further studies proportionate to the risk to analyse the consequences and likelihood of adverse effects.
Matters to be examined
Matters commonly investigated and documented in an EES are:
Description of the project
A clear and sufficiently detailed description of the proposed project is needed to enable the effective assessment of potential environmental effects.
This description should set out:
- project rationale and objectives
- location, technology and design of project components
- site characteristics and surrounding area
- communities, properties and/or residences that may be affected by the proposal, including a description of the way that they may be affected
- proposed methods for mitigating adverse environmental effects and risks
- proposed program and time schedule for project implementation
- proposed method for implementing the project, including responsibility for construction, operation and where relevant, decommissioning.
Description and assessment of relevant alternatives
An EES should investigate and document the environmental effects of relevant alternatives for a project. Alternatives may be:
- siting and layout alternatives, where some flexibility is available in terms of site suitability and availability
- design or process alternatives, where one of several approaches could be applied
- scale, where the magnitude of the project might be varied in response to demand or constraint factors
- timing of project activities
- staging of project development, where construction, operational or other factors might necessitate or provide an option for staged implementation.
A description of the process of screening alternatives as part of the project planning or design process, leading to a short-list of preferred alternatives, should be included in the EES.
Where a feasible option provides a distinct opportunity for superior environmental outcomes, this should be investigated and documented in the EES. Detailed assessment of particular alternatives is necessary where alternatives have the potential to deliver suitable social, environmental and economic outcomes.
An EES will not normally be required to document alternatives to a project proposal, as opposed to alternatives for a project. However, a discussion in an EES of the rationale for a project will be appropriate. The only alternative to a project proposal that will routinely be described in detail in an EES is the ‘no project’ scenario.
The ‘no project’ scenario provides the baseline for describing the potential environmental effects from a project. The ‘no project’ scenario sets the current and anticipated conditions if the project did not proceed. It may also be appropriate for an EES to describe alternative scenarios for after-use of a site, where an assessed activity (such as a mine) would have a finite life and different after-uses might be possible
Relevant environmental effects
An EES should provide an assessment of a project’s potential effects on the following matters, including their interactions, where relevant:
- natural or semi-natural ecological communities
- populations or habitat of indigenous species of flora or fauna of conservation significance
- ecosystem processes supporting biodiversity, ecological productivity and environmental quality.
- potential changes to local population and demographic profile
- social structure and networks
- residential amenity & social well-being
- social vulnerability and differential effects on parts of the community
- housing and social infrastructure needs
- perceptions of aesthetic, recreational and other social values of landscape or locality
- attitudes to proposed development
- potential for disruption or change to existing rural and urban land uses
- availability of housing and urban services
- infrastructure requirements (including education, health and other social infrastructure) and
- access to natural resources (such as high-quality agricultural soils, earth resources and water resources).
- levels of income
- investment and jobs (modelling of the flow-on effects between different sectors within a region may be appropriate)
- efficient use of natural resources.
Types of environmental effects
Projects may give rise to environmental effects through relatively direct cause-effect pathways, or through more complex, indirect pathways. In addition, the cumulative effect of a project in combination with other activities may need to be assessed if there is a risk of significant adverse effects.
An EES should identify the potential for cumulative effects, i.e. where a project, in combination with one or more other proposed projects, or existing activities in an area, may have an overall significant effect on the same environmental asset. A regional perspective can be helpful in this regard, by putting the potential effects of a project in a wider context.
While cumulative effects may be a relevant consideration for the assessment of a project, a proponent may not have a practical ability to provide such an assessment, for example because of their limited access to information on the effects of other existing activities or potential projects. Similarly, the ability of a proponent to provide a regional perspective in an EES will depend on the availability – usually from government agencies – of relevant regional policies, plans, strategies, as well as regional data.
A proponent will at least need to provide an assessment of relevant effects (e.g. on landscape values, risks to fauna or emissions to air) in a form that can be integrated with information relating to other projects or activities, and thus enable the Minister to assess the potential cumulative effects. A specific need for a proponent to document potential cumulative effects may arise where a project is to be undertaken in a series of stages.
Because of the factors constraining quantitative assessment of cumulative effects, often only a qualitative assessment will be practicable.
Indirect effects are separated in space or time from the direct effects of a project. Such effects may arise from either inputs to or consequences of a project. The proponent may not control the sources of indirect effects.
The extent to which assessment of indirect effects is needed as part of an EES will depend on these factors:
- are the effects reasonably foreseeable? * how strong is the causal link or nexus between the project and the effects of concern?
- are the effects capable of being accurately assessed?
- could the effects be significant enough, in the context of relevant policy, to impinge on the acceptability of the project?
- are there other statutory mechanisms through which these effects will be addressed? In light of the above factors, various types of indirect effects will not need to be assessed in detail in an EES where:
- the effects are likely to be diffuse and/or involve a low level of environmental risk
- it is not practicable to accurately predict potential effects through modelling
- the effects would be associated with inputs to the construction or operation of a proposed facility (e.g. sourcing of construction materials for a road), unless there is a specific nexus between a project and ancillary works
- the effects would be associated with use of a product to be produced (e.g. uses of mined materials or metal from a metal processing facility)
- the effects would be addressed by other, separate statutory mechanisms, unless indirect effects are also relevant to a decision to be informed by the assessment under the Environment Effects Act 1978
Analysis of the significance of potential effects
An EES should provide an analysis of the significance of potential effects. This analysis will require the integration of several aspects, including:
- potential effects on individual environmental assets, in terms of magnitude, extent and duration of change in the values of each asset
- relationships between different effects
- the likelihood of effective avoidance and mitigation of potential adverse effects
- the likelihood of adverse effects and associated uncertainty of available predictions
- implications of likely effects for implementation of statutory provisions, including policy, as well as consistency with principles and objectives of ecologically sustainable development.
Integrated assessment of environmental performance
An EES will need to provide an integrated assessment of the anticipated performance of a proposal, in terms of the implications of likely effects and associated risks, with respect to:
- key requirements or objectives under statutory provisions, including policy
- best practice techniques and technologies, available within relevant sectors of activity
- objectives and principles of ecologically sustainable development and environmental protection.
This assessment might involve the use of performance criteria to address particular effects or risks. While some such criteria will be available under applicable statutory provisions, criteria for some matters may need to be developed in the specific context of the project and its likely effects. Performance criteria will help to guide studies and provide a clear framework for management of environmental effects.
Such performance criteria might be linked to higher-order objectives for the integrated evaluation of project effects or outcomes. Scoping requirements for an EES may set out draft objectives, having regard to key issues and relevant statutory provisions. An EES should refine and address these draft evaluation objectives.
Consistency with relevant statutory provisions
Scoping requirements will identify the relevant provisions of legislation and regulations, associated statutory policies, strategies, plans and guidelines, as well as government agreements.
More comprehensive identification of relevant aspects is essential in the course of preparing the EES. Matters that are the respective responsibility of State, local and Commonwealth governments should be clearly identified. The EES will need to document the project’s consistency with applicable legislation, regulations, statutory policies, strategies, plans, guidelines and agreements.
Framework for environmental management
An EES should incorporate a framework for managing the environmental effects and risks of a project, including:
- the framework of statutory approvals and agreements that will underpin environmental management plans and measures
- the Environmental Management System to be adopted (e.g. based on ISO 14001), including organisational responsibilities and accountabilities
- proposed environmental indicators and objectives to guide environmental monitoring and management actions
- an overview of environmental management plans for the construction and operational phases, and also decommissioning, where relevant
- a summary of environmental management measures proposed in the EES to address specific issues, including key environmental commitments of the proponent to mitigate adverse effects and enhance environmental performance
- the proposed program for evaluating environmental outcomes, reviewing and revising environmental management plans, as well as the auditing and reporting of performance
- arrangements for management of and access to baseline and monitoring data, to ensure the transparency and accountability of environmental management as well as to contribute to the improvement of environmental knowledge.
Adaptive environmental management uses monitoring results to guide management responses. Where adaptive management is proposed as a method of managing key environmental effects or risks of a project, the EES will need to demonstrate the capability of the proponent to monitor environmental effects and respond within timeframes that will provide reasonable confidence of acceptable outcomes being achieved. Where a combination of ‘static’ or proactive and adaptive management techniques is proposed, their respective roles should be clearly explained.
Is there a format that should be used in an EES?
It is expected that an EES will comprise:
- a short, hardcopy summary of the EES
- a main report providing a comprehensive response to the scoping requirements
- technical appendices providing details of the study investigations underpinning the main report.
The main EES report should be concise, clear and relevant to the issues and decisions that need to be addressed. It should be analytical rather than encyclopaedic in approach, addressing issues in a depth proportionate to the environmental risk.
The main EES report will usually be most easy to read if information on potential environmental effects is presented under relevant “issue” headings, together with the description of the environmental assets that may be affected and discussion of proposed environmental management responses.
The report should make extensive use of maps, photographs, diagrams and other graphical methods to illustrate key environmental features, project alternatives, potential effects and proposed responses.
Technical appendices should provide:
- details of literature reviews
- methodologies and results of field and laboratory investigations
- methodologies and results of impact assessment studies (such as air quality modelling, user surveys), including estimates of the reliability of results; and description of sources of uncertainty.
There should be cross-referencing between the main report and the supporting appendices.
The proponent must prepare the EES in a format and in sufficient numbers that will enable ready access by interested parties
Ensuring an EES is adequate for exhibition
The proponent is responsible for preparing an EES that adequately addresses the matters in the scoping requirements and any other relevant issues. These matters need to be sufficiently investigated and clearly documented to enable informed responses by the public and agencies. The EES should provide as full a statement of the proponent’s case as possible.
There are three basic steps for ensuring the adequacy of an EES for exhibition:
- The proponent and its consultants should adopt internal quality assurance procedures.
- The TRG will review the draft technical studies and draft EES documentation and provide advice to the proponent.
- The proponent should seek the advice of the Secretary as to the adequacy of the proposed final EES documentation before the EES is exhibited.
In special circumstances, additional steps may be necessary to address quality issues, such as:
- The Minister may direct the department to appoint expert peer reviewers to provide advice during the development of critical EES studies. The final written advice of expert peer reviewers appointed by the department will be made available during the exhibition of the EES and provided to an inquiry, if one is appointed.
- If the Minister in light of submissions and further analysis, or advice from an inquiry, considers that the documentation provided in the EES has been significantly deficient in some respect, the Minister may ask the proponent to provide supplementary documentation in order to enable a proper assessment of a project.
It may be prudent for a proponent to initiate expert peer reviews of EES studies on technically or scientifically complex matters where there may be a range of expert views.
How will the proponent and Department coordinate their roles?
To enable coordinated and timely management of the EES preparation, the proponent should seek the Secretary’s advice about how the proponent and department can best coordinate their roles.
Such advice will normally take the form of a time schedule agreed between the proponent and department that may include:
- dates for delivery of the proponent’s proposed Consultation plan, draft EES study reports and draft EES, for review by the department and the TRG
- timeframes for TRG feedback on draft documents as well as for quality review of the proposed final EES
- timeframes for the proponent to respond to feedback
- protocols for giving advance notice of any delays and for revising the agreed time schedule.
Agencies and authorities represented on the TRG will be asked to confirm their commitment to provide feedback within agreed timeframes.
What if the proponent abandons an EES?
Proponents that decide to abandon the preparation of an EES should notify the Minister, the Secretary and all relevant decision makers.
Advice should be sought from the Secretary on any proposal to restart a previously abandoned EES.
Page last updated: 28/09/23