Environment Minister Tony Burke has introduced legislation to the House of Representatives to establish an Independent Expert Scientific Committee to provide advice on coal seam gas and large coal mining.

 

The legislation will amend the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 to allow for the establishment of the Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development as a statutory body.

 

The Independent Expert Scientific Committee is part of a science-based framework to provide more certainty for regional communities on coal seam gas and large coal mining developments, jobs and investment and the protection of water resources.

 

An interim committee was put in place pending formal establishment of the Independent Expert Scientific Committee. The interim committee will continue until it hands over to the Independent Expert Scientific Committee from 1 July, 2012.

 

The Independent Committee would:

  • advise on research priorities;
  • advise on bioregional assessments in areas of high potential impact from coal seam gas and/or large coal mining developments, including providing advice to the Commonwealth Minister for the Environment on the priority areas in which these assessments should be undertaken;
  • advise on research and bioregional assessments commissioned by the Commonwealth Minister for the Environment following consideration of the Committee’s advice;
  • publish information on options for improving the consistency and comparability of research in this area including in relation to the development of leading practice standards in relation to the protection of water resources from the impacts of coal seam gas and large coal mining developments;
  • provide the Environment Minister and the appropriate Minister in declared state and territory governments with expert scientific advice relating to coal seam gas and large coal mining development proposals that may have a significant impact on water resources; and
  • provide advice outside this scope in certain circumstances.

 

The first five regions where the interim committee will undertake further detailed assessment to provide better information for decision-makers to ensure protection of water resources are:

  • Queensland - Lake Eyre Basin, which is underlain by the Galilee, Cooper and Pedirka coal bearing basins;
  • New South Wales and Queensland - Northern Inland Catchments, incorporating the Namoi, Border Rivers-Gwydir, Maranoa-Balonne and Macquarie-Castlereagh coal bearing basins. This area is underlain by the Gunnedah and Surat basins
  • New South Wales - Northern Sydney Basin and the Gloucester Basin, encompassing the Hunter Central Rivers and Hawkesbury-Nepean natural resource management regions;
  • New South Wales - Southern Sydney Basin, encompassing the Southern Rivers, Sydney Metro and Hawkesbury-Nepean natural resource management regions; and
  • Queensland - Clarence-Moreton Basin, encompassing the South East Queensland and Northern Rivers natural resource management regions.

 

Submissions are required by 19 April 2012. The reporting date is 20 June 2012.

 

More information about the inquiry is here.