Section 487 (s. 487) of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act extends special legal privileges to green groups to challenge federal environmental project approvals, even when their private rights are not directly affected by that project.
Since the introduction of the EPBC Act in 2000, major projects have spent approximately 7,500 cumulative days, or 20 years, in court as a result of challenges brought under s. 487.
The Institute of Public Affairs estimates these delays have cost the Australian economy as much as $1.2 billion.
Eighty-seven per cent (four out of thirty-two) of s. 487 challenges which have proceeded to judgement have been rejected in court. Of those four challenges that have been successful, three resulted in only minor changes to the Minister’s original approval.
Environmental groups have used s. 487 to carry out an ideological anti-coal, anti-economic development agenda, as outlined in the 2011 Greenpeace strategy document Stopping Australia’s Coal Export Boom.
Holding projects up in court reduces profitability, employment, investment and government revenue and royalties. Some projects never go ahead due to heightened risk of legal challenges and consequent higher capital costs.
Delaying or preventing projects in Australia harms the environment: Australia has cleaner coal than the rest of the world. Fewer coal mines in Australia means more coal mines overseas, which will result in a lower quality environment. Delaying or preventing projects – if applied on a global scale – can also affect the dependable and affordable supply of energy to developing nations.