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The role of the Office of Groundwater Impact Assessment and the Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development in environmental assessments
The purpose of this fact sheet is to explain the commonalities and differences in function between the Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development (IESC) and the Office of Groundwater Impact Assessment (OGIA) and to provide a shared understanding on matters where outputs from OGIA’s assessment are referred to by the proponents in their environmental impact assessments.
The IESC is a statutory Committee, commissioned under the Commonwealth Environment Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, of leading scientists that independently advise ministers and government regulators on the impacts that coal seam gas and large coal mining development may have on Australia’s water resources.
The Condamine River between Dalby and Cecil Plains
The Office of Groundwater Impact Assessment (OGIA) is an independent statutory entity established under Queensland legislation for the assessment and management of groundwater impacts from the extraction of groundwater by resource tenure holders (petroleum, gas and mining). OGIA is responsible for undertaking cumulative impact assessments and setting out management arrangements in areas where impacts from multiple tenure holders may overlap. Such areas are declared as ‘cumulative management areas’ (CMA). Currently there is one CMA in Queensland that was established in 2011 covering the Surat and Southern Bowen basins in response to coal seam gas (CSG) development (the Surat CMA). Petroleum and gas functions of OGIA have existed since 2010 but mining related functions were added in late 2016.
Neither the IESC nor OGIA are regulators but due to their respective functions both entities have different roles and interaction with CSG development in the Surat CMA. Given this overlap, both entities engage regularly to ensure a shared understanding of knowledge and ongoing research and management activities.
However, there are two fundamental differences in the functions and scope of the two entities.
More information on the role and functions of the IESC can be found at: IESC Home
More information on the role and functions of OGIA can be found at: Office of Groundwater Impact Assessment
OGIA’s impact assessment and management arrangements are presented in an underground water impact report (UWIR) which is revised every three years to accommodate up-to-date data and research. The first UWIR for the Surat CMA was released in 2012 followed by the current UWIR in 2016. The UWIR provides details of environmental assets, water use profiles, predictions of impacts on aquifers, water bores and springs, as well as a regional water monitoring strategy and springs impact management strategy.
The UWIR is supported by OGIA’s various scientific assessments, conceptualisations and a numerical groundwater flow model to underpin cumulative impacts associated with CSG development in the Surat CMA. The current model has 32 layers covering an area of approximately 450 x 650km.
IESC broadly acknowledges the high quality of OGIA’s independent impact assessment in the Surat CMA and the sound framework that exists in Queensland for cumulative impact assessment and management. IESC does not provide any direct advice on OGIA’s assessment or the UWIR. IESC advice on matters relating to OGIA’s assessment is indirect when proponents use OGIA’s assessment for their specific project.
Proponents in the Surat CMA have typically been using OGIA’s assessment and the associated modelling tools to identify project specific impacts and to make reference to cumulative assessment and management in the UWIR to meet their various legislative requirements under the state and federal legislation. To this end, when requested, OGIA generally runs the project specific model scenario and provides output to the proponents. Except for factual matters, OGIA does not review as to how those outputs are used and reported by the proponents.
Key considerations when considering IESC advice and OGIA assessments:
Note: The content of this fact sheet is published in more detail in ‘Synergies in the role of the Office of Groundwater Impact Assessment and the Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development in environmental assessments’, which can be accessed at http://www.publish.csiro.au/aj#CurrentIssue.