The Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Unconventional Gas Development and Large Coal Mining Development (IESC) provides requested advice for the consideration of the Australian Government and relevant state government regulators.
The regulator requests IESC advice
The IESC can only give advice when a regulator requests advice. The IESC’s functions allow for advice to be requested under different parts of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).
When a project is referred by a relevant minister (or their delegate) the regulators submit Request for Advice documentation which includes specific questions about the potential water impacts of a project for the IESC to respond. The advice includes, but is not limited to, responses to the specific questions asked by the regulators.
Who are the regulators?
- Australian Government
- Queensland Government
- Victorian Government
- South Australian Government
- New South Wales Government
Seeking advice on unconventional gas and large coal mining developments
Under the EPBC Act the Australian Government Minister must assess and approve or reject all proposals for unconventional gas and large coal mining developments that are likely to have a significant impact on a water resource. These developments can be anywhere in Australia. Before making their decision, the Minister must request and consider advice from the IESC.
The EPBC Act allows for the IESC to provide scientific advice on proposed unconventional gas and large coal mining developments and anything relevant to those developments, including water management plans. Any plans submitted as part of a proponent’s Environmental Impact Assessment for a project would be considered during the IESC’s assessment process.
Where appropriate, the IESC draws on any material provided by the regulators and relevant publicly available material and information in forming its advice. This may include recent scientific literature, Environmental Impact Statements for similar projects, and publicly available data.
The state regulators in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia may also request and consider IESC advice at certain points in their assessment and approvals process. Each state has a protocol that says which types of projects they will seek IESC advice on, and at which point they will do so.
Seeking advice on other matters
At the request of a relevant Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria or South Australia Minister with the written agreement of the Australian Government Environment Minister, the IESC can provide advice on any matter within its expertise.
Also, at the request of the Australian Government Environment Minister, the IESC can provide scientific advice on other matters of national environmental significance.
The IESC consider the request, develops their scientific advice and provides this advice to the regulator for consideration in their decision-making process.
Topics covered in advice include:
- the potential water-related impacts of the proposal and the likely risks to water resources and water-dependent assets
- critical data and information gaps that need addressing to complete an adequate assessment
- the cumulative water-related impacts of the proposal in the context of past, present and reasonably foreseeable actions.
The EPBC Act requires the IESC to provide advice to the regulator within two months of receiving the request.
The IESC publish their scientific advice within 10 business days of providing it to the regulator.
Regulators have committed to take the advice into account and to be transparent about how they do this. The regulator considers the IESC's scientific advice in the decision making process and may also use it to help develop and set appropriate conditions to ensure that any impacts on water resources are managed.
The following case studies show how regulators have used the IESC's advice:
Details of decisions
Details of the development proposals are publicly available. This includes public notices, referrals and environmental impact statements.
The regulators provide this information on their websites:
- Australian Government regulator - EPBC Act Public Portal
- Queensland Government regulators - Public Notices; and Current projects
- Victoria Government regulator - Earth Resources Regulation
- South Australia Government regulator - Notified developments
- New South Wales Government regulators - Major Projects and NSW Independent Planning Commission