Where can I find the reconsideration request letters?
Where can I read ECoCeQ’s evidence?
You can read the information and evidence ECoCeQ submitted to the Minister on the explore the evidence page.
Annexure 1 documents – Scientific and expert reports
Annexure 2 – Legal argument report: Analysis of research on climate change and its impacts on Matters of National Environmental Significance under the EPBC Act
Annexure 2.1 – Spreadsheets of data
Annexure 2.2 Part A – Documents on Ecological Communities, Listed Migratory Species, Marine Environments, National Heritage Places
Annexure 2.2 Part B – Documents on Ramsar wetlands, threatened fauna, threatened flora, World Heritage properties
Annexure 2.3 – Fire impact maps
Can I include a personal, emotional plea in my comment?
Absolutely! You can share your personal concerns and experiences under Step 3: Provide any other comments.
Can I see a sample submission?
Yes – here’s a sample submission. Feel free to use this as a guide, but to give your submission the best chance of urging the Minister to make a new decision for each project that will protect our living wonders, we encourage you to put it into your own words and highlight things that are important to you:
Subject: Reconsideration of the North West Shelf Extension Project (EPBC 2018/8335)
My name is [add your name]. I am a retired school teacher and grandmother who is deeply concerned about our climate, and the impact of coal and gas on our natural world.
I wholeheartedly support the request, submitted by lawyers from Environmental Justice Australia (EJA) on behalf of the Environment Council of Central Queensland Inc (ECoCeQ), that you reconsider the original controlled action decision on the referral of the above project.
ECoCeQ has submitted substantial new information about the climate impact of this project on Australia’s protected animals, plants and places.
This information – thousands of pages of evidence including IPCC reports, the 2021 State of the Environment Report, conservation reports, spreadsheets and fire impact mapping – was not available when the project’s first decision was made and it is real and not trivial.
I am concerned because this new information demonstrates that this project would have a significant impact on our climate and on thousands of living wonders which you have a responsibility to protect.
I am particularly concerned about the impact on the Great Barrier Reef, and also on Australia’s fragile alpine environment. Each are home to extraordinary threatened species that are already at risk of extinction. The science is clear – every emission counts, and new coal and gas projects and expansions would be catastrophic for nature in Australia.
Please revoke the first decision about this project and make a new decision to properly assess the climate impact of these this project. Please consider the thousands of pages of scientific reports, evidence and new fire mapping carefully.
Thank you for the opportunity to submit a public comment and contribute the environmental assessment of this proposal.
Will my public comment be more impactful if it’s long or short?
The Minister is accepting comments from the public – and you do not need to be a lawyer or scientist to share your views.
Your thoughts matter, and the Minister is legally required to consider every comment she receives.
You can write just a few sentences for each question, or a few hundred words, or you can attach a whole document with a carefully footnoted submission. If you want to know what to write and how to answer the questions to make the most impact, here’s a step-by-step guide for each project.
That step-by-step guide explains the questions on the EPBC portal, and also explains how ECoCeQ’s argument relates to the questions on the portal.
You might like to read this guide because the Minister is required to consider public comments on each individual project so it is important you know what each question is asking – but again, it doesn’t matter how long or short the information included in your answer is.
It might be helpful to know too, as ECoCeQ’s legal argument is the same for all projects – every emission counts, and the Minister needs to consider the climate risk posed by each project to all nationally significant animals, plants and places – your public comment can be the same for each project too.
Can I write the same comment for all 18 projects?
Although the letters ECoCeQ provided to the Minister are tailored to each project (eg the estimated projected emissions for each project), the legal argument ECoCeQ has presented to Minister is the same for each of the 18 projects. In short, ECoCeQ argues every emission counts and will have a vast and irreversible consequences for thousands of matters of national environmental significance.
Since ECoCeQ’s legal argument is the same, this means you can submit the same comment for each project.
What does “substantial new information” mean?
Under our federal environmental laws, the material ECoCeQ has lodged with the Minister must meet the threshold of “substantial new information.” This basically just means that the information:
- wasn’t available during the project’s first assessment, and
- is real and not trivial, and a form of factual evidence.
ECoCeQ and their Environmental Justice Australia legal team assert there is substantial new information about the climate harm from this project.
ECoCeQ’s information shows this project would have a significant impact on nationally protected animals, plants, ecosystems and places (which are “matters of national environmental significance” protected under the EPBC Act). This research includes authoritative reports, for example the 2021 and 2022 IPCC reports, the 2021 State of the Environment Report, as well as many, many documents authored by environmental scientists working for state and federal governments.
ECoCeQ’s information includes powerful new research, including fire maps which show the impacts of the climate change-fuelled 2019-2020 bushfire season on endangered animals and plants, and nationally protected areas. This information was not available when the project was first assessed.
ECoCeQ’s information about the climate impacts of the project is substantial and new because this information did not exist when the first decision was made or was not before the decision maker when the first decision was made.
When were the projects approved?
None of the projects have been approved yet. This is why making a public comment right now is so important!
Under federal environmental laws, all gas and coal proposals go through a two–stage assessment process. The first decision (called a ‘controlled action decision’) determines which plants, animals and places that are protected under the law (also known as ‘matters of national environmental significance’) could be impacted by the proposal. By identifying the matters impacted, the first decision forms the important gateway for the second decision, the final approval.
ECoCeQ’s Living Wonders legal intervention only targets the first decision. Each of the 18 projects has had its first decision made by a previous environment minister but none have yet progressed to final approval. Using a rarely used mechanism under the law, ECoCeQ is asking the current Minister to reconsider each of the first stage decisions for the 18 projects, and to replace that decision for each project with a decision that takes account of the reality of climate change.
ECoCeQ is doing this because they realised that for all coal and gas extraction projects, including these 18, previous environment ministers making this first decision were not properly considering, or not considering at all, the climate impacts of burning fossil fuels. It seemed to defy logic and undermine our laws that a coal and gas extraction project could progress to final approval without having the impact of its emissions on our thousands of protected animals, places and plants – our Living Wonders – included in the environmental assessment process.
So, when did this first decision occur? As you can see below, the decisions were made at different times for each project – the first in 2011, the most recent in 2021.
- The Range Project (2011/5860) – 4 April 2011; corrected on 17 October 2013
- Baralaba South Coal Project and Transport Corridor (2012/6547) – 22 October 2013
- Spur Hill Underground Coking Coal Project (2014/7239) – 7 July 2014
- China Stone Coal Mine Project (2014/7353) – 30 October 2014 corrected on 14 May 2015
- Moorlands Open Cut Coal Mining Project (2015/7451) – 22 April 2015
- Saraji East Mining Lease Project (2016/7791) – 18 November 2016
- Alpha North Coal Mine Project (2018/8189) – 21 May 2018
- North West Shelf Project Extension (2018/8335) – 3 May 2019
- Narrabri Underground Mine Stage 3 Extension Project (2019/8427) – 30 September 2019
- Winchester South Coal Mine Project (2019/8460) – 18 July 2019
- Lake Vermont Meadowbrook Coal Mine Project (2019/8485) – 22 November 2019
- Ensham Life of Mine Extension (2020/8669) – 29 July 2020
- Mount Pleasant Optimisation Project (2020/8735) – 26 August 2020
- Australia Pacific LNG – Gas Supply Security Project (2020/8856) – 17 February 2021
- Boggabri Coal Mine (2021/8875) – 28 May 2021
- Meandu Mine King 2 East Project (2021/8999) – 6 September 2021
- Caval Rudge Mine Horse Pit Extension (2021/9031) – 19 November 2021
- Valeria Project Mine Site (2021/9077) – 14 January 2022
Is there a specific date when trying to work out what is ‘new’ information?
The short answer is ‘no’, there is not a specific date when trying to work out what is ‘new’ information.
In this context, information is ‘new’ if it was not before the relevant previous environment minister at the time the first decision was made for each project – ie it was not available to the minister who made the decision, and therefore it was not considered.
ECoCeQ argues that all of the materials it has provided to the Minister is ‘new’ for each project because, even if the materials had been in existence when the first decision was made, they were not before the relevant environment minister at that time the first decision was made.
Where can I find the Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions for each project? Should I include the cumulative impact?
First, you can find the emissions for each project on explore the coal and gas proposals. This webpage may not list the individual Scope 1, 2 and/or 3 emissions in each case, but it does include the total estimated emissions figure ECoCeQ included in their requests to the Minister.
Second, an important argument put forward by ECoCeQ, based on the global scientific consensus summarised in the material, is that when it comes to protecting our living wonders from further climate risk, every project matters, and every emission matters.
When the Minister is reconsidering each project and deciding whether to change the first decision to properly account for climate risk, the Minister is only required to consider the impacts on our living wonders of that particular project. That is why ECoCeQ is encouraging you to make a submission (even an identical submission) in respect of all 18 projects, because your voice matters in relation to them all!
The Minister is not required to consider the cumulative impacts of all 18 projects targeted by this legal intervention (nor the total collective impacts of any other coal and gas projects currently being considered).
However, it is ECoCeQ’s argument that each individual project will have a significant impact on our living wonders, based on the global scientific consensus that widespread and catastrophic harm to ecosystems, species and the biosphere as a whole is in train as a result of the greenhouse gas emissions created by burning fossil fuels. And, they say this is supported by materials provided to the Minister which includes the latest IPCC report, the IEA Net Zero report and the government’s own State of Environment report, as well as thousands of pages of government scientific reports documenting risks from climate change to individual species and places. If you want to learn more, you can explore the evidence.
What are the criteria Minister Plibersek needs to use when assessing the impact of new coal and gas projects at this stage of the assessment process?
Under federal environmental laws, all gas and coal proposals go through a two–stage assessment process. ECoCeQ’s Living Wonders legal intervention only targets the first decision of that process. This first decision determines which nationally protected plants, animals and places could be impacted by the proposal. By identifying the matters impacted, the first decision essentially forms the gateway for the second decision, the final approval.
When considering each of the 18 requests ECoCeQ has made, and deciding whether to make a new, first-stage decision about the particular project, the key criteria for Minister are:
- First, whether there is substantial new information available about the impacts of the project, or whether there has been a substantial change in circumstances.
ECoCeQ argues that the material it has submitted meets the threshold of “substantial new information”. This basically just means that the information wasn’t available during the project’s first assessment, and is real and not trivial, and a form of factual evidence. ECoCeQ does not rely on the ‘substantial change in circumstances’ part of this criteria.
- Second, whether the project will or is likely to have a “significant impact” on the living wonders that the Minister is responsible for protecting. Importantly, ECoCeQ’s argument highlights that:
- an impact does not need to be direct. An impact which occurs later in time, or across the country is still an impact.
- a “significant” impact means an impact that is important or notable.
- “impact” in this context includes a likely impact. A significant impact is “likely” if it is a real or not remote chance or possibility.
ECoCeQ submits that the evidence submitted with its requests shows that each of the 18 projects would have a likely significant impact on our climate and on thousands of protected plants, animals, ecological communities and places. And they ask the Minister to make a new first decision for each of the projects, one that includes all of the protected matters that will be impacted by the project, including the climate impacts.
Should I limit my concerns only to Greenhouse Gas emissions – or can I also raise concerns about damage to the surrounding environment, because that has (ostensibly) already been considered?
When the Federal Environmental Minister makes the first decision in the environmental assessment process, the Minister is required to consider the “impact” of the proposal on protected places, animals and plants.
According to our federal environmental laws, an “impact” can be direct or indirect – ie it would include the mine infrastructure affecting local habitats and, as ECoCeQ argues, it could also include the greenhouse gas impacts caused by burning fossil fuels. ECoCeQ’s evidence shows that these emissions are likely to harm places, plants and animals both right next to the mine site, and all across the country we now know as Australia.
You can include local impacts, and it is important that you include information that you feel strongly about. But if you agree that the catastrophic effects of climate change are also relevant impacts from coal and gas extraction, we encourage you to urge the Minister to also have regard to ECoCeQ’s core argument about the greenhouse gas or climate impacts of each of these 18 projects.
Does ECoCeQ’s evidence only apply to mines in Queensland? Or only in New South Wales, or Western Australia?
No. The evidence ECoCeQ has submitted to the Minister applies to each of the 18 projects which are open for public comment. These projects are located in Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia.
The vast repository of evidence prepared by ECoCeQ supports their argument that the emissions from each coal and gas project will have vast and irreversible impacts on thousands of matters of national environmental significance which are located across the place we now know as Australia.
To find out more about how to make a public comment for each project, we’ve pulled together step-by-step guides about every project on the living wonders website.
You might like to draft your comment in a word doc and copy and paste – or make minor edits – your text into as many project submissions as you like.
I made a submission, but the reply email from the department doesn’t include what I wrote. How can I check it went through properly?
We understand there’s a been glitch with the EPBC portal. In their confirmation emails, they have not been properly displaying the comments people have submitted.
The EPBC team says they are fixing the problem (which only impacting their emails). They also say all comments are successfully going through into their system.
If you’re concerned, you can contact the EPBC portal team on 1800 423 135.