COAG forum sees environmental law plans stall

MOVES by the Federal Government to transfer its responsibilities for national environmental law to the states have stalled after a COAG business advisory forum in Canberra on Thursday.

The private sector forum will feed into Friday's official COAG meetings between Prime Minister Julia Gillard and her state counterparts.

But a key reform the government promised business in April, and one which could have major effects on the protection of the nation's most important environmental assets, stalled.

While the government was tight-lipped about environmental regulation on Thursday, despite Labor backbencher Andrew Leigh voicing his concerns about the legality of the move on Sky News that morning.

A communiqué from the forum revealed "significant challenges that have emerged" between the outcomes the business community wanted and ensuring high standards of protection were kept.

But the communiqué - the only official document released from the forum - also said the government was still committed to the streamlining environmental regulations.

The plan attracted criticism from lawyers, academics and environmentalists this week, including the Greens.

Greens Leader Senator Christine Milne said while she believed the COAG plan had stalled, the government had not told the public about what the details of the plan were.

She said the Greens not only did not want any devolution of the laws to the states, but were pushing for an expansion of Commonwealth protections - but numerous bills brought by the minor party this year have failed to get passed.

Environment Minister Tony Burke has said any changes to environmental laws would not water down protection.

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