Environment can be a revenue raiser for government

THE Abbott Government hopes to raise more than $7 million by creating a new fee for developers to pay when they apply for environmental assessments.

New laws introduced by Environment Minister Greg Hunt on Tuesday would create the as-yet undisclosed fee for proponents to help the Environment Department recover the costs of assessments.

It would apply to most major mines and other projects to impact on nationally important environmental areas and threatened species, but there would be some exceptions available.

The specific nature of the fee and when it would apply will be left to be released under new regulations issued by Mr Hunt's office, which have not been released.

It was one of two new changes to environmental laws Mr Hunt introduced the morning after the Abbott government released its first budget.

The second changes will ensure the full handover of Commonwealth environmental approvals to the states and territories, but may undermine protections for water resources.

While Mr Hunt had previously said legislative change would not be needed to handover approvals, the new laws would allow proponents to refer projects only to the relevant state government, with no oversight by the Commonwealth.

The Greens Senator Larissa Waters said the bill would also scrap the national protection for water resources from coal seam gas projects - a major reform initiated by then-Federal MP Tony Windsor last year.

She said the changes would allow states to have "full responsibility" for all national approval powers, which would allow future projects like the Franklin River dam to go ahead.Response was sought from Mr Hunt's office before filing.