I. NATIONAL INSTITUTIONAL ARRANGEMENTS FOR INTEGRATING ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS INTO POLICY DECISION-MAKING PROCESSES
B. Existing regulatory systems
EPA is the principal environmental legislation affecting new mining and petroleum developments. The objective of the Act is to achieve uniform systems of environmental management in accordance with the fourth national goal and Directive Principles under Section 25 of the Papua New Guinea Constitution. EPA and the corresponding guidelines cover provisions for issuing permits and licences for mining and petroleum development. The Act allows for the control of projects which may alter the environment. It defines the environment as the total stock of physical, biological and social resources available to man and other species. The Act provides the mechanism for environmental planning processes when any proposal is likely to have significant environmental and social impacts.
All the government departments are bound by EPA, and other environmental legislation can be incorporated within the environmental plan which provides the technical background to applications for the various permits and licences. Mining and petroleum projects are regulated by EPA, which is administered by the Department of Environment and Conservation in its capacity as the lead environmental agency.
Under Subsection 1 of EPA, an environmental plan is required which outlines all aspects of any proposed development, including any changes in social, cultural, physical or biological characteristics, the use and discharge of contaminants, costs and advantages of a new project, the long- and short-term objectives of the project, and any other matters considered necessary by the Secretary of the Department of Environment and Conservation. An environmental plan is recognized as the basis for planning and it must respond to the national goals and Directive Principles of the Constitution. In formulating the plan, account must be taken of the development goals, strategies or plans to ensure consistency with the national goals and Directive Principles issued by the NPO director or the Provincial Secretary of the affected province. The minister may allow an environmental plan to be submitted in separate parts during the planning, feasibility study, construction or operational phases of any project, each part of which will be dealt with as an environmental plan in the manner provided by the Act.
The Department of Environment and Conservation is responsible for issuing the guidelines for the preparation and content of the environmental plans (box 1). The Department is responsible for issuing specific guidelines for designated classes of projects and is expected to consult with persons who are likely to be affected by the application of the provisions of the Act to such classes of projects. EPA stipulates that guidelines issued under the Act must recognize the necessity for cohesive, integrated and efficient planning in the development of Papua New Guinea as well as participatory roles of other ministers, provincial governments and stakeholders in the planning process.
Figure II gives a detailed outline of the steps involved in the process of environmental assessment and the decision-making processes as set out in EPA. Under the Act, three types of applications are permitted: exemption, voluntary and requisition.
An environmental exemption application can be made if, in the developer's view, the proposal is unlikely to have any significant environmental effects. In the past, this type of procedure was not used by the mining industry except in the small-scale alluvial mining sector. The Department of Environment and Conservation has literally turned a blind eye to those operators and has allowed them to take advantage of this provision because of the chronic shortage of monitoring staff.
The voluntary application requires the developer to initiate contact with the Department of Environment and Conservation at an early phase of the proposal and to then maintain a process of consultation leading to the submission of the environmental plan. This is the preferred procedure by the Department since it is much more rapid and affords a degree of flexibility. Since the Minister of Environment and Conservation is the sole decision maker in this procedure, throughput is greatly reduced (figure II).
A requisition application initially results from the service of a requisition note on the developer by the Minister of Environment and Conservation (figure II). The Act authorizes the minister to serve the note if he believes that a project proposal has significant environmental implications. In practice, the procedure has rarely been used. In the timber industry, some projects have been forced to furnish environmental plans through this procedure as a result of their reluctance to submit a voluntary environmental plan as advised by the Department of Environment and Conservation. An environmental plan requisition restrains other State approvals and negotiations for loans etc. Any development work on the site must be halted pending a positive outcome of a requisition application.
A requisition environmental plan is also required after an environmental plan under the voluntary application procedure is refused approval. The developer, after receiving the notice of non-approval, requests the Secretary of the Department of Environment and Conservation to reassess the application as if the environmental plan was requisitioned in the first place. That allows for wider consultations on the environmental plan than in the voluntary procedure. Non-approval of requisitioned environmental plans then results in their consideration by a Board of Inquiry prior to submission to the National Executive Council (NEC) for a final decision. A negative decision by NEC leads to the prohibition of the proposed development.
The assessment of the environmental plan is undertaken by the Minster for Environment and Conservation as soon as practicable after it has been submitted. On completion of the assessment, the minister is expected to send a copy of the environmental plan and the assessment to the Provincial Secretary of the province affected, advising him that representations may be made within a specified time. At the same time, a notice is placed in the National Gazette, national newspapers and newspapers published in the province affected. The withdrawal of an environmental plan can only take place where the proponent does not wish to proceed with a proposal. In such cases, the proponent makes a written request to the minister who, in turn, returns the environmental plan and any other plans submitted in connection with the proposal.
EPA also stipulates that the minister responsible for the Department of Environment and Conservation may, from time to time, revise the guidelines and, in so doing, consult with those persons who are likely to be affected by such revisions. The guidelines under EPA cover: short- and long-term objectives of the project; alternative sites and alternative methods of implementing the project as well as a recommendation for a particular method; and environmental impacts and proposed actions to prevent or mitigate any adverse environmental impacts resulting from the proposal. The guidelines also require a statement on the projected use and discharge of environmental contaminants, the cost and benefits that may accrue from a proposal or project, and any permanent change to the physical, biological, social or cultural characteristics of the affected environment in the foreseeable future.