Opposition set to be tested on environmental credentials

THE Federal Opposition is set to be tested on its environmental credentials with a raft of amendments to Abbott Government changes to environmental laws on the agenda.

Amendments moved last year by Environment Minister Greg Hunt to change the Commonwealth's environmental laws will help protect major project proponents from community legal challenges if the government failed to heed official conservation advice.

The changes were the subject of a recent Senate inquiry, in which the Law Council hit out at the clauses that would protect Abbot Point dredging, a Galilee coal mine and a Curtis Island LNG facility from such challenges.

A spokesman for Mr Hunt last week confirmed there were as many as 30 different projects which could be challenged on grounds official conservation advice was not taken into account.

During debate in the lower House, The Greens MP Adam Bandt moved amendments to also prevent the handover of environmental approvals to state governments - a process that is already in place in most states.

While Labor supported Mr Bandt's amendment, it was defeated by the government in the lower House, but a similar amendment is one of four that will be proposed during debate in the Senate.

The Senate debate was originally expected to begin this Thursday, but may be delayed until the next parliamentary sitting week in a fortnight.

The Greens Senator Larissa Waters has confirmed she would again move changes to prevent the legal handover, as well as to ban the dumping of dredge spoil in the Great Barrier Reef.

And Independent Senator Nick Xenophon has also said he will move two other changes, one to strengthen an independent scientific committee on coal seam gas to ensure its advice is given to governments.

Sen Xenophon's second amendment will also seek to prevent CSG operations "fracking", or using hydraulic fracturing methods, where there is "the potential to impact water resources".

While Labor is understood to be backing moves to prevent the handover of environmental laws, the three other potential amendments have complicated the process.

A response has been sought from the Opposition as to what its position was on the bill and amendments.