Environment

Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006

The Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006 (OPGGS Act) provides the regulatory framework for all offshore petroleum exploration, production and greenhouse gas activities in Commonwealth waters (those areas more than three nautical miles from the Territorial sea baseline and within the Commonwealth Petroleum Jurisdiction Boundary). The OPGGS Act is supported by regulations and directions covering matters such as safety, diving, petroleum resource management and environmental management.

Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage (Environment) Regulations 2009

The Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage (Environment) Regulations 2009 (Environment Regulations) have been made under the OPGGS Act with the objective of ensuring that any petroleum or greenhouse gas activity carried out in the offshore area is:

  • carried out in a manner consistent with the principles of ecologically sustainable development as set out in section 3A of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act)

  • carried out in a manner by which the environmental impacts and risks of the activity will be reduced to as low as reasonably practicable

  • carried out in a manner by which the environmental impacts and risks of the activity will be of an acceptable level.

The Environment Regulations are comprised of the following parts:

  • Part 1 addresses the objects, definitions and other administrative elements

  • Part 1A addresses the requirements for offshore project proposals (OPP)

  • Part 1B addresses the requirements to demonstrate financial assurance as a prior condition for acceptance of an environment plan

  • Part 2 addresses the requirements for environment plans

  • Part 3 describes the requirements for notification of reportable and recordable incidents, reporting environmental performance and storage and accessibility of records

  • Part 4 includes various miscellaneous regulations including notification of the start and end of activity, reference to previous information given to the Regulator, OPP fees

  • and other procedural matters

  • Part 5 details transitional arrangements.

Three key aspects of the Regulations are:

  1. For offshore projects (one or more activities undertaken for the purpose of recovery of petroleum, other than for an appraisal basis) an offshore project proposal must be submitted to the NOPSEMA in accordance with Part 1A of the Environment Regulations.

  2. It is an offence for a titleholder to commence a petroleum activity without an ‘in force’ environment plan. The expression ‘in force’ is taken to mean that the environment plan for the activity has been accepted by NOPSEMA and that acceptance has not been withdrawn.

  3. A titleholder of an offshore project cannot submit an environment plan for acceptance until an OPP for that activity has first been accepted by the NOPSEMA.

  4. NOPSEMA must not accept an environment plan until reasonably satisfied that the titleholder is compliant with subsection 571(2) of the OPGGS Act in relation to a petroleum activity and the compliance is in a form that is acceptable to NOPSEMA.

Regulatory streamlining

On 28 February 2014, NOPSEMA became the sole designated assessor of petroleum and greenhouse gas activities in Commonwealth waters in accordance with the Minister for the Environment’s endorsement of NOPSEMA’s environmental authorisation process under Part 10, section 146 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).  All actions which are petroleum and greenhouse gas activities undertaken in Commonwealth waters in accordance with the Environment Regulations have been approved as “approved classes of actions”, subject to the following exclusions:

Petroleum and greenhouse gas activities that:

  • have, will have or are likely to have a significant impact on Commonwealth land

  • are undertaken in any area of sea or seabed that is declared to be part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park under the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975 (Cth)

  • have, will have or are likely to have a significant impact ion the world heritage values of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage property or on national heritage values of the Great Barrier Reef National Heritage place

  • are taken in the Antarctic

  • are injection and / or storage of greenhouse gas.

Activities that are not covered by the approved class of actions are still subject to the requirements of the EPBC Act. Early engagement with the Commonwealth Department of the Environment is encouraged.

Brochure: Clarifying arrangements for Environmental regulation of petroleum activities in Commonwealth waters (PDF 1.1MB)

IP1382 - Streamlining environmental regulation of petroleum activities in Commonwealth waters - Rev 0 - February 2014 (PDF 189KB)

Other Commonwealth legislation

Some petroleum activities may also require approval under the Environmental Protection (Sea Dumping) Act 1981, the Protection of the Sea (Prevention of Pollution from Ships) Act 1983 or other Commonwealth legislation. The onus is on the proponent or titleholder to identify and decide whether a proposal needs to be referred for assessment or approval with the relevant regulatory body.

Commonwealth legislation is available from comlaw.gov.au

State and territory environmental legislation

NOPSEMA does not currently have conferral of powers for any state or Northern Territory coastal waters. If a petroleum activity is proposed within state or Northern Territory coastal waters (those areas less than three nautical miles from the Territorial sea baseline) a number of environmental assessment and management legislation, specific to that jurisdiction, may be applicable. The onus is on the proponent to identify and comply with all relevant legislation including State and Territory Law, where applicable.

For further information refer to the relevant jurisdiction’s State Law Publisher or relevant government agency.