The Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Unconventional Gas Development and Large Coal Mining Development (IESC) has developed a suite of resources to assist industry and regulators with environmental assessments. The resources provide guidance on the suggested information and data to be included in an environmental impact assessment. Providing appropriate information enables the IESC to provide robust scientific advice to government regulators on the potential water-related impacts of development proposals.
The resources on this page were developed before amendments to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 expanded the IESC’s remit to all types of unconventional gas development.
Reflections on the lake at the Hunter Wetlands Centre (Shortlands Wetland)
The Information Guidelines developed by the IESC, outline the information considered necessary to enable the IESC to provide robust scientific advice to government regulators on the water-related impacts of coal seam gas and large coal mining development proposals.
They were first published in March 2013, and are frequently reviewed to ensure that the most up-to-date scientific information is included. The Information Guidelines were updated in April 2014, October 2015, and May 2018. The 2015 and 2018 updates included a public consultation process which provided four to six weeks for interested parties to make a submission. An Industry Roundtable held in Sydney in March 2018 provided valuable context on how proponents apply the Information Guidelines.
The most recent update was initiated to ensure that current advances in theory and leading practice are considered and incorporated, such as the most up-to-date scientific assessment methods. The updated version provides additional and clearer guidance on specific technical aspects, and explains what, why and how to collect basic scientific information through the Explanatory Notes.
The importance of undertaking a risk assessment early in an environmental assessment process is now highlighted, which allows investigations of potential impacts and selection of management options commensurate with the project’s risk profile. For example, emphasising the need for Environmental Impact Assessments to specify the flow of logic in a risk assessment by identifying, for each potential impact, the pathway or mechanism (preferably illustrated in an ecohydrological conceptual model) that will lead to an undesirable outcome such as impaired water quality or ecological community, and justify viable mitigation and management measures to reduce this risk.
Other updates include clarification of the IESC advice process for regulators and proponents, and sections have been reworded to further assist proponents during the development of their Environmental Impact Assessments. The checklist is intended to help proponents address each aspect of assessing risk materiality. The prescriptive listing is aimed at ensuring all crucial environmental information is obtained and provided before a project can commence.
Information Guidelines Explanatory Notes
For some topics, Explanatory Notes have been written to supplement the IESC Information Guidelines, providing tailored guidance and up-to-date robust scientific methodologies and tools for specific components of Environmental Impact Assessments on coal seam gas and large coal mining developments. Case studies and practical examples of how to collect and present relevant information are also included.
The Explanatory Notes contain a greater level of detail about a specific topic than that provided in the Information Guidelines and improve clarity in expectations to reduce delays in the approval process. The topics for the Explanatory Notes have been chosen based on the IESC’s experience of providing advice on more than 160 development proposals.
Summary guides of each of the Explanatory Notes have been developed to provide a short, simplified summary of the Explanatory Note.
Uncertainty analysis for groundwater modelling provides a range of approaches available to proponents and regulators in understanding and interpreting uncertainty analysis for groundwater modelling to assist in decision making.
Assessing groundwater-dependent ecosystems reviews tools and methods for groundwater-dependent ecosystem assessment to help proponents choose the most effective approach.
Deriving site-specific guideline values for physico-chemical parameters and toxicants introduces the use of a water and sediment quality management framework to assist with the design of appropriate monitoring programs for measuring physico-chemical parameters and toxicants from which site-specific guideline values can be developed.
Characterisation and modelling of geological fault zones provides a range of approaches available to proponents to determine, at the highest level, the role faults may play in impeding or propagating pressure and groundwater flow impacts from proposed project developments.
Subsidence associated with underground coal mining provides tailored guidance and up-to-date robust scientific methodologies and tools for proponents to assess the risk and magnitude of subsidence due to large coal mining developments.
Explanatory Notes Virtual Masterclass Series
The IESC has hosted a series of virtual masterclasses, targeted at industry consultants, based on each of its Explanatory Notes. The masterclasses, presented by each note’s authors, provided the opportunity to describe how the methods in each Explanatory Note can be applied and to answer questions from participants.
Four masterclasses have been held and recordings can be viewed at the below links:
- 26 May 2021 – Uncertainty analysis–Guidance for groundwater modelling within a risk management framework
- 2 June 2021 – Assessing groundwater-dependent ecosystems
- 9 June 2021 – Deriving site-specific guideline values for physico-chemical parameters and toxicants
- 12 October 2022 – Characterisation and modelling of geological fault zones
- Environmental water tracers in environmental impact assessments for coal seam gas and large coal mining developments
The fact sheet – Environmental water tracers in environmental impact assessments for coal seam gas and large coal mining developments – provides case studies that explain how environmental water tracers can complement other types of information and investigations that are commonly undertaken for an environmental impact assessment.