The National Partnership Agreement on Coal Seam Gas and Large Mining Development
In February 2012, Queensland signed the National Partnership Agreement on Coal Seam Gas and Large Mining Development (NPA). The purpose of this agreement is to create a more consistent national approach to strengthen the regulation of coal seam gas (CSG) and large coal mining development by ensuring that future decisions are informed by substantially improved science and independent expert advice.
The agreement does this by establishing an Independent Expert Scientific Committee (IESC) which gives the Queensland and Australian governments expert scientific advice on CSG and large coal mining development proposals likely to have a significant effect on water resources.
In accordance with the terms of the National Partnership Agreement (NPA) the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP) published a protocol which specifies how the Queensland Government decides which project applications should be referred to the IESC for advice.
The Queensland Government does not intend the referrals process to extend project assessment or approvals timelines. Exceptions to this are expected to be rare and will be determined by Queensland Government officers, in consultation with the IESC and the proponent.
Currently, Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Northern Territory are signed parties to the NPA.
The Independent Expert Scientific Committee
The IESC advises on the direct and cumulative impacts of proposed resource developments across the state allowing a more comprehensive review of potential impacts to river basins or catchments, particularly those that cross state boundaries.
This IESC is an open committee, providing regular public updates of its work, publishing its advice and the outcomes of bioregional assessments and commissioned research on the IESC website.
The function of the IESC under the NPA is to improve the identification and scientific understanding of both the potential for and the actual impacts on water resources.
The IESC conducts assessments and produce evidence-based scientific reports in response to requests from State and Commonwealth regulators. These reports outline any possible threat to water resources from a project and include consideration of the cumulative impacts from existing development, approved and planned projects and development. This advice is used by EHP in its assessment of environmental authority applications through the EIS process.
IESC’s advice is made publicly available on the IESC’s website 10 business days after it has been provided to the relevant regulator/s – usually including the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection. The advice details the title of the project, a summary of the request, and the IESC’s advice in response to the request.
The report is advisory; however, it ensures decisions made regarding CSG and coal mining proposals are informed by substantially improved and independent scientific information.
Members of the IESC are appointed on the basis of their strong scientific expertise and credentials in understanding the potential impacts of coal seam gas and coal mining on water resources.