In NSW, coal seam gas activities are strictly regulated by the Department of Industry, Resources & Energy (Office of Coal Seam Gas), the Environment Protection Authority, the Office of Water and the Department of Planning and Environment.
For every gas exploration and production well in NSW, AGL must obtain approvals and comply with conditions of the following approvals:
A Petroleum Exploration Licence (PEL) is an exploration licence that is granted by the NSW Department of Industry, Resources & Energy and allows the holder to explore for gas. PELs are granted under the Petroleum (Onshore) Act 1991, and contain conditions regulating the holder’s conduct, as well as strict environmental, water and technical controls.
Once exploration has taken place, the titleholder can apply to the NSW Department of Industry, Resources & Energy for a Petroleum Production Licence (PPL). The PPL allows the holder the exclusive right to extract the gas from the lease area during the term of the lease. PPLs are granted under the Petroleum (Onshore) Act 1991, and contain conditions regulating the holder’s conduct, as well as strict environmental, water and technical controls.
An REF is an environmental assessment under Part 5 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979, which is required for some exploration activities. The REF is assessed by the NSW Office of Coal Seam Gas. The REF examines the potential environmental impacts of the proposed gas exploration activity. For example, the REF examines noise, water management plans, cultural assessments, community impacts and visual impacts. The REF approval will contain conditions and restrictions on the gas exploration activity.
A development consent is required for petroleum production activities under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 in relation to the State Environmental Planning Policy (Mining, Petroleum Production and Extractive Industries) 2007. A formal application is submitted to the Department of Planning and Infrastructure. The application for this approval includes an assessment of all potential impacts of the project. Consents come with a number of conditions regulating water, air quality, noise as well as other matters.
The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) issues environment protection licences. The licence is required for both exploration and production activities under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997. The licence has conditions that regulate air, water and noise pollution and monitoring.
This Act is mainly used for licensing and water allocations. This Act is being progressively phased out and replaced with the Water Management Act 2000.
The object of this Act is to ensure the sustainable and integrated management of NSW water for the benefit of both present and future generations.
The NSW Aquifer Interference Policy explains the water licensing and impact assessment processes for aquifers.
The Land and Water Commissioner has been appointed by the NSW Government to provide independent advice to the community, landholders, resource companies and the government on mining and coal seam gas activities in NSW. The Commissioner is also responsible for overseeing the finalisation of the standard land access agreements for NSW.
This Code provides a practical guide for coal seam gas titleholders to ‘ensure that well operations are carried out safely, without risk to health and without detriment to the environment.’
This Code is designed to ensure that fracture stimulation activities are conducted in a safe manner and that communities, the environment and water resources are protected.
The EPBC Act is the key piece of environmental legislation for the Commonwealth. In June 2013 the Act was amended to include a new matter of national environmental significance, the ‘water resources trigger’ which relates to coal seam gas and large coal mining development.
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