The Federal and Queensland Governments have struck a new bilateral agreement over the disputed Alpha Coal mine project, agreeing to 'significant' changes to pre-existing environmental approvals for major projects.


Queensland Deputy Premier and Minister for State Development Jeff Seeney described the changes as a 'major step forward' while introducing project management approaches to the process.


"They also give greater clarity and transparency about the respective roles of the Queensland and Commonwealth Governments and impose timeframes on both for consultation and responses through the approvals process," Mr Seeney said.


The new bilateral includes the setting of defined milestones and timeframes for providing documents, feedback and approvals, including the signing-off on Terms of Reference and key assessment reports. 


Mr Seeney said the new agreement would all but eliminate duplication in the environmental approval process.


“The changes negotiated between the State and Commonwealth will also provide certainty to project proponents around the length of time of the approval process,” Mr Seeney said. 


Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke said the signing of the new agreement would ensure that the Commonwealth Government would be involved in the process from the beginning.


"It was clear during the dispute over the Alpha Coal project that the new Queensland Government had fundamentally different expectations of the agreement compared to the Commonwealth," Mr Burke said.


"These amendments clarify these roles and should make sure that the dispute we saw in recent weeks is not repeated.


"The amendments ensure that the terms of reference are agreed by both governments and the Commonwealth is able to make its requirements clear at different points in the process.