The NSW Government has admitted it ignored a major recommendation from the Chief Scientist’s Independent Review of Coal Seam Gas Activities in New South Wales.
Deputy Premier John Barilaro made the admission during Senate Estimates, throwing doubt on the state’s regulatory framework for the damaging and highly controversial industry.
The revelation that the government does not intend to create the state-specific Standing Expert Body as recommended by the Chief Scientist comes as an assessment is being finalised for Santos’ controversial 850 well coal seam gasfield proposal at Narrabri.
The Chief Scientist recommended the Standing Expert Body in order to monitor, inform and review the impacts of the CSG industry.
Instead, the Deputy Premier cited the Commonwealth’s Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development (IESC), a body that was already in existence when the recommendation was made, and which does not have the functions or capacities the Chief Scientist identified as necessary to safeguard New South Wales from coal seam gas risks.
Mr Barilaro said, “The government decided to continue working closely with the Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development rather than to establish a duplicate expert body in NSW." (see the top of page 96 in this doc)
The revelation also comes as a parliamentary inquiry begins to examine the Government’s implementation of the recommendations from the five-year-old review.
NSW Lock the Gate Alliance spokesperson Georgina Woods said “The Government relies on the Chief Scientist’s review to claim coal seam gas can be safely managed in New South Wales, but now admits it has ignored one of the key recommendations of that review.
“Without the Standing Expert Body that was recommended, independent oversight and safeguards to protect the groundwater that drought-affected communities rely on for their existence just aren’t there.
“This is a big admission, particularly as the controversial and deeply unpopular Santos Narrabri gas field is expected to be referred to the Independent Planning Commission any day now.
“The NSW Government has admitted its coal seam gas regulations are incomplete. The coal seam gasfield in the Narrabri area must not be allowed to proceed.
“Lock the Gate Alliance calls on the Berejiklian Government to immediately establish the Standing Expert Body on coal seam gas developments recommended by the Chief Scientist."
The functions of the authority recommended by the Chief Scientist are very different to that of the IESC and were to be to advise the NSW Government:
on the overall impact of CSG in NSW through a published Annual Statement which would draw on a detailed analysis of the data held in the Whole-of-Environment Data Repository to assess impacts, particularly cumulative impacts, at project, regional and sedimentary basin scales;
on processes for characterising and modelling the sedimentary basins of NSW
on updating and refining the Risk Management and Prediction Tool;
on the implications of CSG impacts in NSW for planning where CSG activity is permitted to occur in the state;
on new science and technology developments relevant to managing CSG and when and whether these developments are sufficiently mature to be incorporated into its legislative and regulatory system;
on specific research that needs to be commissioned regarding CSG matters;
on how best to work with research and public sector bodies across Australia and internationally and with the private sector on joint research and harmonised approaches to data collection, modelling and scale issues such as subsidence;
on whether or not other unconventional gas extraction (shale gas, tight gas) industries should be allowed to proceed in NSW and, if so, under what conditions.