In June 2013, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth) (EPBC Act) was amended to include significant impacts on water resources as a new matter of national environmental significance in relation to coal seam gas and large coal mining development (commonly referred to as the 'water trigger'). Any project that has, or is likely to have, a significant impact on water resources must be referred to the Australian Government regulator for assessment and approval.
The Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development (IESC) were asked to provide scientific advice to the Australian Government Environment Minister on the implementation of the, then, proposed legislative amendment to the EPBC Act. In the advice, the IESC outlined scientific elements for inclusion; in the definition of a significant impact on water resources; and in the terms of reference for the assessment of coal seam gas and large coal mining developments; and also identified mitigation actions that could be considered by regulators.
The IESC also provided scientific advice to the Australian Government regulator, as requested, on the draft Significant Impact Guidelines for the 'water trigger'. The Guidelines aim to assist proponents of coal seam gas and large coal mining development proposals decide whether their proposals are likely to have a significant impact on a water resource.
- Advice on draft significant impact guidelines for impacts on water resources, in relation to coal seam gas and large coal mining developments
At the request of a relevant New South Wales, Queensland, South Australian or Victorian Minister with the written agreement of the Australian Government Environment Minister, the IESC can provide advice on any matter within the expertise of the IESC. This includes other proposed unconventional gas developments such as shale and tight gas or mineral developments, for example, gold.
Also, at the request of the Australian Government Environment Minister, the IESC can provide advice on matters of national environmental significance beyond those that may be impacted by projects other than coal resource developments.