Referring to supporting documentation in published environment plans

Article published in the Regulator | Issue 1: 2019 

 Ahead of the proposed amendments to the Environment Regulations taking effect, titleholders have raised questions how supporting information should be referenced in an environment plan to ensure there is sufficient information to adequately inform the public while also satisfying NOPSEMA’s content requirements.

To clarify, the proposed amendments to the Environment Regulations do not involve any changes to the environment plan content requirements. Titleholders will continue to be required to provide appropriate content and level of detail in environment plans, as per current practice. It is common to draw on supporting literature or reference internal company documents in an environment plan, by using standard referencing, and this practice is expected to continue.

Titleholders have also queried whether publication of environment plans will now require publication of supporting internal company documents such as procedures or standards. Currently a number of companies refer to these documents for internal purposes. NOPSEMA advises that there will still be no requirement to publish these supporting documents, as long as the content requirements of the Environment Regulations are fulfilled by the descriptions included in the environment plan submission. That is, where a procedure is proposed as a control measure to manage environment impacts and risks, the environment plan describes the key features of that procedure; for example the limits it sets, or the criteria it applies. This practice of referencing internal company procedures is already used in environment plan assessments, and this practice will not change when the amended regulations take effect.

The proposed regulatory amendments include a change to the regulations that currently allow titleholders to refer to information previously provided to NOPSEMA. This provision is being retained, but the regulation will be amended to allow this where the previously-provided information is publicly available. The most common use for this provision will likely be when referring to oil pollution emergency plans (OPEPs) or oil spill monitoring plans (OSMPs), which are occasionally developed by titleholders on a region-wide basis and applied to multiple environment plans. After the amended regulations come into force, titleholders must be aware that OPEPs and OSMPs will need to be provided in full for new environment plan submissions, until these supporting documents are published on NOPSEMA’s website as part of an accepted environment plan.