EPA 50th Anniversary Reflections


Minister for Industrial Development Charles Court opened the Jarrahdale Bauxite Mine in 1963. Over the last 50 years the EPA has assessed numerous Alcoa proposals including Pinjarra and Wagerup alumina refineries, Huntly and Willowdale bauxite, and Hedges gold.


Foundation Chair of the Environmental Protection Authority, Dr Brian O’Brien.


Since the early 70s, Robe River Iron Associates has referred numerous proposals to the EPA pursuing the development of iron ore reserves along the Robe River Valley from Pannawonica to Cape Lambert.


In 1977, Woodside boss Ric Charlton and Western Australian Premier Sir Charles Court announce agreement on key terms and conditions for the North West Shelf Project, kickstarting a five-decade environmental approvals’ trajectory for the energy producer.


In 1984 the Dampier to Bunbury Natural Gas Pipeline became the longest natural gas pipeline in Australia after the EPA assessed its impact on the clearing of native vegetation, soil erosion and jarrah dieback.


Following Australia II’s success in the America’s Cup, the EPA was asked to consider the environmental impact to the coastline if Fremantle hosted the America’s Cup defence in 1986. As a result, marinas were built to relieve boating pressure from the Swan River.


In 1992 the EPA recommends the approval of a hydro-electric generating station next to the Ord River Dam to supply power to the Argyle Diamond Mine site. The route through the environmentally sensitive Carr Boyd Ranges was considered during the assessment and conditions were placed on the proponent to minimise disturbance to the landscape. The station opened in 1996.


During the late 80s, a 10-year study of the Peel-Harvey Estuary culminated in a recommended management strategy, including the Dawesville Cut, while a new level of assessment was introduced to aid EPA assessment rigour. A Public Environmental Review (PER) still exists today. In 1994 the 2.5km Dawesville Channel was opened, connecting the Peel Inlet and the Harvey Estuary to the sea.


In 1999 the EPA Board, led by Chairman Bernard Bowen, pondered if the Authority should take account of an international net decrease in CO2 emissions generated from WA resources exported, despite extraction of those resources resulting in a significant net increase in the emission of Greenhouse Gas in WA.


Environmental consultants conducting EIA surveys at James Price Point in the Kimberley discovered the world’s smallest species of goanna. Varanus sparnus (Dampier Peninsula Goanna), with a total length of 23cm and weighing 16 grams, was been described as an ‘evolutionary marvel’ unchanged for over 6 million years and with a distribution confined to the Dampier Peninsula area.


In 2015 the EPA’s Deputy Chairman Robert Harvey, Chairman Dr Tom Hatton and Member Jim Limerick visited the site of the proposed Yeelirrie Uranium Project. The following year the EPA recommended that the Yeelirrie uranium mine not be approved because it posed too great a risk of extinction to some native animals.


In 2019, concerned about the cumulative impacts of a growing city against a backdrop of historical clearing, the EPA completed an impact assessment on the Carnaby’s Cockatoo. Mitigation measures were recommended to protect the Perth and Peel population of 13,000 birds.


In 2020 under the leadership of Dr Tom Hatton, the EPA finalized its Greenhouse Gas Guidelines, providing industry and the community with a clear framework for the management of greenhouse gas emissions.