Existing regulatory controls sufficient to protect environment from onshore gas projects, report says

By Melissa Coade

Thursday September 23, 2021

(sergbob/Adobe)

A new report from the Geological and Bioregional Assessment (GBA) has found that no additional environmental safeguards are required to mitigate the risks posed by onshore gas extraction projects in Australia.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, environment minister Susan Ley said the program’s detailed environmental assessments were carried out by the CSIRO and Geoscience Australia, with support from the Bureau of Meteorology and the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment.

“The result is a comprehensive set of data assessments, backed by real world evidence, setting out the ways in which industry needs to plan,” the environment minister said of the report.

The GBA was undertaken in three stages and considered the possible environmental impacts of projects in Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory. 

Ley said that the assessments found that all potential impacts of shale and tight gas development could be ‘avoided, mitigated or managed through compliance with existing regulatory or management controls’.

Launched in 2017, the $35.4 million program aimed to investigate how shale and tight gas development might affect nearby water, protected environmental areas and threatened species at the extraction sites and beyond the onshore gas provinces. 

Resources and water minister Keith Pitt said the program would allow industry to move forward responsibly and quickly. An Explorer tool designed by the GBA would assist industries, regulators and communities to evaluate the impacts of unconventional gas resource development on water and the environment, he added.

“The program assessed a huge amount of information, but the tool allows users to simplify the assessment to the key matters of interest for each individual,” Pitt said.

The resources and water minister also said that the program’s data and tools will be used by the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources to guide federal plans for unlocking the ‘resource potential’ of the Beetaloo Sub-basin in the Northern Territory. 

“This will be the first of five strategic basin plans to be delivered under the Gas-fired Recovery Strategy announced in the 2020-21 federal budget,” Pitt said.


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