Greater environmental protection is to be implemented for water resources impacted on by coal seam gas operations and the activities of large coal mining developments.
Minister for Environment, Tony Burke said the new Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 would require Federal assessment and approval of coal seam gas and large coal mining developments which had a significant impact on a water resource.
Gas and coal to be assessed
“Australia’s water resources are among our most vital natural resources and it is important that we ensure they are protected,” Mr Burke said.
“The proposed amendments will ensure that coal seam gas and large coal mining developments must be assessed and approved under national environment law, if they are likely to have a significant impact on a water resource.
“The community expectation has always been that we would take this into account.
“But up until now, we have only been able to take account of water to the extent there has been an impact on issues such as threatened species or a RAMSAR wetland.”
He said whenever he made a decision on coal seam gas it was expected that all the impacts on water resources were taken into account.
“This change gives me as Australia’s Environment Minister the capacity to do just that,” he said.
Mr Burke said with the issue becoming a matter of national environmental significance it would have the full resources of the Independent Expert Scientific Committee and the analysis that flowed as a result.
“For projects that are early in the approval process they will be able to incorporate the additional matter of environmental significance at whatever stage they are at,” he said.
“For projects which are already undergoing an assessment, they will not be required to restart their environmental impact assessment from the beginning.
“Rather my department is writing to every company affected advising them as to what the additional information is, so that they can get to work on that straight away.”