Under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999(Cth) (EPBC Act), the Australian Government and relevant state government regulators request advice from the Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development (IESC) on the potential impacts of coal seam gas and large coal mining developments on water resources such as groundwaters, rivers, wetlands and springs, and to provide greater transparency in the regulatory process.
Regulator requests advice from the Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development
The regulator requests our advice
The IESC can only give advice when a regulator requests advice. When a project is referred by the relevant minister (or their delegate) the regulators submit Request for Advice (RfA) 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: Coal and coal seam gas - Regulation
- Queensland Government: Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) Processes
- Victorian Government: Mining and resources
- South Australian Government: Coal Seam Gas and Coal Mining
- New South Wales Government: Gateway Assessment and Site Verification
Which decisions they seek advice on
Under the EPBC Act the Australian Government Minister must assess and approve or reject all proposals for coal seam 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 coal resource 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 also request and consider our advice at certain points in their assessment and approvals process. Each state has a protocol that says which types of projects they will seek our advice on, and at which point they will do so:
- Queensland protocol made under the National Partnership Agreement on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development
- Amendment to Ministerial guidelines under section 10(1) of the Environment Effects Act 1978
- South Australian protocol for the referral of project applications for Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development
- New South Wales protocol made under the National Partnership Agreement on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development
The IESC consider the request, develop their scientific advice and provide 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 use the IESC's scientific advice to develop and set appropriate conditions to ensure that any impacts on water resources are managed. The regulators have committed to take the advice into account and to be transparent about how they do this.
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 1999(Cth) - Public Notices
- 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 Project Assessments and Mining and Petroleum Gateway Panel