The IPA’s recent report on how section 487 of the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act1999 enables environmental activists to hurt development and job creation, was featured on the front page of The Australian today:
Environmental groups’ legal challenges to development projects ranging from dams and roads to coalmines are estimated to have cost the economy up to $1.2 billion — an amount that is rising as more “vexatious and frivolous” claims are made.
The 32 legal challenges under the environment laws that went to court meant developers spent a cumulative 7500 days — or 20 years — in court even though 28 of the environmental cases were defeated and three required only minor technical changes to go ahead.
The Institute of Public Affairs estimates that the delays to the projects “cost the Australian economy as much as $1.2bn”.
The conservative think tank’s investigation into challenges to projects under section 487 of the Environment Act, which allows anyone with a “special interest in the environment” the right to challenge, found that environmental groups carried out “an ideological anti-coal, anti-economic development agenda” aimed at holding up projects to reduce profitability and investment.
“Given the high failure rate and frivolous nature of many of the legal challenges, it is clear it hasn’t been applied in the way initially intended and rather has been persistently abused by green groups whose primary motivation is an anti-coal agenda,” the IPA report says.
Drawing on Productivity Commission calculations, the IPA finds the use of section 487, which was introduced by the Howard government in 2000, “is estimated to have cost the economy between $534 million and $1.2bn”.
“This estimate is likely to underestimate the total cost to Australia, as it doesn’t capture all flow-on effects to employment, investment and higher capital costs,” the report says.
“Some projects never go ahead due to heightened risk of legal challenges and consequent higher capital costs.”