Thursday, 11 February 2016
Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Amendment Bill 2016; Second Reading
That this bill be now read a second time.
In Australia, offshore petroleum exploration and development is regulated by a title system, authorising titleholders to carry out petroleum operations in Commonwealth waters. Governing the regulation of these offshore petroleum operations is the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006 (OPGGS Act)and related acts and regulations. These instruments ensure that operations are carried out in a safe and environmentally sustainable manner.
A petroleum title granted under the OPGGS Act is defined as a 'prior usage right' for the purposes of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) if the title was in force immediately before the proclamation of a Commonwealth reserve that overlaps the title area. If a title is a 'prior usage right', activities may be carried out under the title without being subject to the requirements of the EPBC Act relating to a reserve, or of any management plan for the reserve. Under the EPBC Act, it is stipulated that such a usage right may only be extended or have its term renewed with the consent of the Minister for the Environment.
A recently identified administrative oversight, extending back to 2008, has led to certain petroleum titles being renewed or extended under the OPGGS Act without the Minister for the Environment's consent being sought as is required under the EPBC Act. Without a curative legislative amendment, there is a question as to the validity of the relevant extension and renewal title decisions made under the OPGGS Act.
The amendments contained in this bill therefore seek to validate the affected titles. Despite the aforementioned administrative oversight on affected title decisions, the government is confident that all petroleum titleholders have undertaken their activities in good faith. They have continued to be subject to, and compliant with, the stringent environmental management requirements set out under the OPGGS Act and environment regulations.
Australia applies international leading practice in the regulation and management of environmental, safety and integrity risks associated with offshore petroleum operations.
I commend this bill to the House.