Expert committee on CSG and coal mining passes house
Legislation to establish an independent expert scientific committee to provide advice on impacts of coal seam gas and large coal mining proposals on our water resources has passed the House of Representatives.
Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke said the legislation would allow for more rigorous scientific assessment of coal seam gas and large coal mining proposals, in particular how these proposals will affect underground water resources and our rivers.
"I know that there is significant community concern about the impact of coal seam gas and coal mining developments on our water resources," Mr Burke said.
"That's why the Gillard Government has acted to create The Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development.
"We want to make sure that decisions by governments in relation to coal and coal seam gas developments are informed by the most rigorous scientific evidence available, in particular where those developments are likely to have a significant impact on water.
"The Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development will play a vital role in ensuring that independent scientific advice is available to all governments when they consider applications for these types of developments.
"In this way, we have established the independent committee and we have funded it.
"It will provide local communities and other stakeholders with accessible and reliable information as well as giving the coal seam gas and mining industries greater guidance on the sustainable management of water resources in areas where they propose developments."
An interim committee was set up in January pending formal establishment of the Independent Expert Scientific Committee. The interim committee has already provided valuable independent advice to the Australian Government and will continue until it hands over to the new committee from 1 July, 2012.
The legislation, which amends the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 to set up the committee, will now be introduced into the Senate.
Mr Burke said the committee would provide advice on research priorities that address critical gaps in scientific understanding, and oversee research commissioned by myself in line with those research priorities.
"When requested, the committee will provide further evidence to inform regulatory decisions made by governments," Mr Burke said.
"It will provide advice on options for increasing the quality and accessibility of knowledge available on the impacts to water resources from coal seam gas and large coal mining developments, for example, in the collection of data.
"The committee's work will be supported by a national partnership agreement with relevant state and territory governments that will require them to seek and take account of the committee's advice when considering approvals for coal seam gas and large coal mining developments.
"So far Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia have signed the agreement – negotiations with Victoria and the Northern Territory are continuing."
Mr Burke said the committee would also provide advice on the priority areas for bioregional assessments and oversee their delivery. The interim committee has started work on the first five bioregional assessments in regions facing significant levels of coal seam gas and coal mining developments, such as the Galilee, Gunnedah, Gloucester and Clarence-Moreton basins.
The Australian Government has provided $200 million to establish the new Independent Expert Scientific Committee and assist states that are parties to the national partnership agreement to introduce the necessary reforms to seek the committee's advice when deciding on coal seam gas and coal mining applications.
For more information visit www.environment.gov.au/coal-seam-gas-mining.