The Federal Government has flagged its intention to reform the way major petroleum activities in Commonwealth waters are assessed and approved.

Federal Minister for Resources and Energy, Gary Gray, said that the focus of these changes is to streamline regulation while maintaining the highest level of protection of Australia’s marine environment.

“We have a dual responsibility to ensure we provide the highest possible protection for those marine environments while at the same time ensuring Australians continue to benefit from the development of our natural resources," Mr Gray said.

Currently, petroleum activities in Commonwealth waters that are likely to impact matters of national environmental significance are subject to regulation under both the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006 (OPGGS Act) and theEnvironment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), which results in unnecessary duplication for industry.

Speaking at the annual APPEA conference in Brisbane today, Mr Gray made it clear that it is a priority for the Commonwealth to streamline the existing regulatory framework to further develop the industry for Australia's economic benefit.

These changes would enable the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) to assess and approve certain petroleum activities, including exploration activities and appraisal drilling, as a streamlined way of meeting the environmental requirements of the EPBC Act.

"The endorsement under the EPBC Act of NOPSEMA's process for offshore petroleum activities would provide a central point for regulation of these activities, leading to better outcomes for the industry and ensuring the strongest protections for our marine environment," Mr Gray said.

"Today's announcement reflects the Commonwealth's commitment to environmental protection and economic development.

"NOPSEMA is the regulator for environmental management of offshore petroleum in Commonwealth waters and already assesses and approves environment plans for all petroleum activities.”