Approval process for environment permits – The National


WE have discussed in the previous articles, the Regulatory Framework and the tools that are made available to the Conservation and Environment Protection Authority (Cepa) to effectively protect and manage the physical, biological, chemical, cultural and social resources of PNG for now and the future , for the collective benefits to now generations and for a better tomorrow.
As we now understand all resource development activities in PNG are prescribed activities and they are classified as Level 1, Level 2 (2A and 2 B) and Level 3. These activities are regulated under the “Environment (Prescribed Activities) Regulation and are subject to Environment Permits application processes and procedures.
Now the Environment Permit application process
Note: Not all activities have been listed in the regulation into these 3 levels therefore it is very important to seek advice from Cepa before you proceed with the activity development. Non listing does not mean that they are not regulated; all activities are regulated regardless of listing and non-listing.
The Managing Director for Cepa has the regulatory powers to upgrade or downgrade an activity to higher or a lower level when considering the extent and intensity of environmental impacts from these activities.

Level 1 activities –
The activities not listed or prescribed as Level 2 and Level 3 are the ones that fall into Level 1 category. Take note that this does not mean that they are exempted from the environment permitting system. Developers of activities not prescribed as Level 2 and Level 3 but Level 1 should consult Cepa for advice.
However, it should be noted that, the Environment Act states that Level 1 activities are exempted from the obligation to have an Environment Permit but are required to observe the appropriate environmental guidelines and code of practice that are relevant to the activity. More importantly, Level 1 activities should be carried out in accordance with the requirements under the Act, Regulations and the Policies that are established under the Environment Act 2000.
The Act also provides for a “call up” of Level 1 activity into Level 2 if the director has formed an opinion that a Level 1 activity involves a substantial risk of material environmental harm. Where such a decision is reached, the director serves a notice on the person or company carrying out the Level 1 activity and advice that the activity has a potential risk of causing material environmental harm and direct the person or company to apply for an Environment Permit. This ”call up” procedure also apply to Level 2 activities upgrading to Level 3 activities and their requirements.
Despite these provisions for Level 1 activities, in reality there is no such thing as “zero waste discharge”. The operators of Level 1 activities are still required to obtain environment permits to discharge waste.
The process for applying for environment permit for level 1 activity requires the proponent to complete two application forms: (1) Environment Permit Application to Discharge Waste and (2) Guidelines for submission of an Application for an Environment Permit to Discharge Waste (DEC Publication, GL-Env/03/2004). These two application forms are to be completed and submitted together for assessment and approval.
Level 2 A activities
Activities that are classified as Level 2 under the Environment (Prescribed Activities) Regulation 2002 are required to have an environment permit before any works can commence. As noted earlier, Level 2 activities are further categorized into Level 2 (Category A) and Level 2 (Category B).
Level 2 (Category A) activities are those activities that are exempted from notification and referral process because they do not pose a high risk of causing environmental harm (eg water extraction, trade in chemical products, etc.). Applications under this category should be processed within 30 days of acceptance of application unless the Director requires an extension in the assessment timeframe.
Level 2 B activities –
Level 2 (Category B) activities are differentiated from Level 2 (Category A) activities due to their high level of risk of causing environmental harm. Activities under this category go through the notification and referral requirements under the permit assessment process. Applications from Level 2 (Category B) activity should be processed within 90 days of acceptance of application unless the Director requires an extension in the assessment timeframe. A Level 2 activity may also be streamed into a Level 3 category using the “call up” provision in the legislation. A decision for calling up of a Level 2 activity is made by the Minister on recommendation of the Environment Council and administered by the Director. This decision is guided by a set of criteria provided in the Act and includes activities that – (a) consist of new industrial or manufacturing process, or (b) are subjects of international treaties/conventions, etc. which PNG has ratified, or (c) pose a threat of causing serious environmental harm

A Level 3 activity.

Level 3 activities
Level 3 activities are those activities that are of national importance and involve substantial capital investment. This category also includes activities that pose a high risk of serious material and environmental harm due to the nature of the industrial and manufacturing process or the sensitivity of the environment they will be located in Activities under this category are subjected to the environmental impact assessment process, starting with the submission of an environmental inception report. Once the process has been completed and the Minister has issued an approval in principle, the applicant must obtain an Environment Permit prior to commencement of works.
Permit applications from Level 3 activities in which an approval in principle has been issued by the Minister are exempted from the notification and referral requirements under the permit assessment process. These applications should be processed within 30 days of acceptance of application unless the director requires an extension in the assessment time frame. The flow chart illustrating the general overview of the Environment Regulatory
In a nutshell, the environment permit application and assessment process are different for the three levels of activities. The environment permit application and assessment process are much simpler and straight forward for the Level 1 Activities and becomes more complicated towards higher at Level 3 Activities.
This is the last article on Environment Act 2000, the regulatory framework regulating developing activities that have potential to harm the environment. Next week article we will discuss the handling of hospital wastes also referred to as medical wastes management.

  • The author is the principal scientist at Yeyue Environmental Services

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