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Environmental impacts of the proposed aluminium bmelter in Bowen

(Question No. 1288) Senator Ludlam asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts, upon notice, on 6 February 2009:

(1) Can an indication be provided of when the Australian Labor Party's election promise to incorporate a ‘greenhouse gas trigger' in the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the Act) will be implemented.

(2) Considering the devastating effect climate change will have on coral reefs, will the Minister consider the greenhouse gas effects of the planned aluminium smelter in Bowen, Queensland, by the Aluminium Corporation of China Limited (CHALCO) when assessing its effect on the Great Barrier Reef under the Act's approvals process.

(3) Given that demand for aluminium is falling and is projected to stay low for at least the next year, will the Minister consider the necessity of building such a high greenhouse gas producing project when deciding on approval for the smelter under the Act.

(4) Will the Minister consider the source of electricity when deciding what impact the smelter will have on the environment.

(5) Has the Minister considered implementing project approvals which require the use of renewable energy; if not, why not.

(6) Will the Minister consider the cumulative effect of these projects on the Great Barrier Reef and surrounding wetlands or will the CHALCO project decision be made in isolation.

Senator Wong-The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) The independent review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) has sought submissions on whether the Act provides an appropriate legislative framework for addressing climate change in the context of environmental protection and biodiversity conservation. The report of that review is to be provided to the Minister by 31 October 2009. The need for a greenhouse trigger under the EPBC Act will be considered following that report within the context of the Government's overall response to climate change, including the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.

(2) (3), (4) and (6) When a proposed action is referred under the EPBC Act, the Minister considers all impacts of the action, including indirect impacts, on matters protected by the Act, according to the requirements of the Act. Where relevant this may include the indirect impact of greenhouse emissions from a proposed action but as the honourable member is aware, in its current form, reflecting the policy of the previous government, the Act does not include a specific "greenhouse trigger".

(5) The EPBC Act requires each case to be considered on its own circumstances and merits. While such a requirement could never be ruled out, in almost all cases it would be beyond the scope of the EPBC Act to direct a proponent to utilise a specific energy source.

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