National law firm Clayton Utz has told its clients that "fundamental questions" surround the certainty of WA's environmental approvals process in the wake of the Barnett Government's embarrassing James Price Point Supreme Court defeat.
In commentary on its website about the Environmental Protection Agency, Clayton Utz said the case "puts a spotlight on past, present and future assessment practices and raises questions about the certainty of decision making in WA".
"For the EPA, it's back to basics. This decision may trigger a wholesale review of EPA practices, not just those in respect to conflict of interest," Clayton Utz said. "As a result, proponents who have proposals in the pipeline may find the process delayed as the EPA sorts itself out. Even those proponents with a fresh approval in their hands might find that they are subject to challenge.
"They will need to be prepared for what might turn out to be lengthy and expensive delays in their approval process, and be more vigilant to ensure similar mistakes don't vitiate any future approvals."
The comments come as EPA board minutes, uncovered by Labor using Freedom of Information laws, reveal at least four other occasions since January last year when EPA board members participated in items despite declaring a conflict of interests.
In his James Price Point judgment, Chief Justice Wayne Martin said that the EPA's practice, under chairman Paul Vogel, of dealing with conflicts did not accord with the structure and operation of the relevant section of the Environmental Protection Act.
The EPA minutes reveal various board members declared interests in three items - Rio Tinto's Turee Syncline iron ore deposit, a BHP Billiton Iron Ore strategic assessment and a review of the Cockburn Sound environmental policy.
Shadow environment minister Chris Tallentire said the Government had appointed too many EPA board members with industry connections, creating more conflicts.Acting Environment Minister John Day said Justice Martin's decision affected only the Browse assessment and whether other approvals were invalid was up to the courts.