Report pushes Gillard to take action on environmental law

THE handover of Commonwealth environmental law to the states is back on the agenda, after the Productivity Commission recommend the Gillard Government take action.

Proposed in April last year at the Gillard Government's COAG Business Advisory Council forum, Prime Minister Julia Gillard took it off the agenda in late 2012.

However, increasing pressure from the resources agenda has made its way into the Commission's report on Minerals and Resource Exploration report, to be released on Friday.

Among several recommendations on land access, exploration regulation and compliance issues, the Commission recommended the Commonwealth handover assessments to the states.

It furthers a recommendation of the Hawke Review from 2009, and comes after several resource companies have complained of duplication of state and federal powers.

But after a stoush between the Queensland and federal governments over the Central Queensland Alpha coalmine proposal, it was unlikely to be completed before the election.

The commission report cites COAG findings that the handover of powers, which can be completed without legislative changes, should improve the approvals landscape for mineral explorers.

It also found the number, size and quality of resource discoveries in Australia was declining and the sector was experiencing "rising costs and lower productivity".

The commission also found in several states changes could be made to improve land access regimes between farmers and miners as well as exploration tenement approvals.