All coal seam gas exploration assessments in NSW will be handled by the Office of Coal Seam Gas, to relieve the complexities of regulation in the industry.
The NSW Department of Planning and Environment (DPE) announced yesterday the changes based on recommendations made in the Chief Scientist’s report in September, which said the legislation and regulation around CSG in NSW were complex and difficult to navigate.
The regulation of gas activities has until now involved several government agencies and 14 different pieces of legislation.
The Office of Coal Seam Gas (OCSG) operates within the Division of Resources and Energy, and will now serve as the sole agency for responsible for all gas exploration activity in NSW.
Chief scientist Mary O'Kane welcomed the government's response to her recommendations, made in September.
"The policy actions contained within the gas plan are a positive move to addressing the many issues surrounding coal seam gas extraction in NSW," she said.
"The government has indicated its support for all 16 recommendations from my independent review of CSG activities in NSW.
"By implementing those recommendations the government will achieve a safer, fairer industry that the community can have confidence in."
Two new policies are now up for consultation relating to the OCSG, with submissions welcome until 2 December 2014.
A new process will require CSG exploration companies to prepare a Review of Environmental Factors to examine all potential impacts, however if the OCSG considers the impacts significant then an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)must be prepared for public exhibition.
However gas production will remain under the current arrangements of the DPE, requiring full EIS.
Another new policy sets out clear standards for noise and dust impacts of mining on neighbouring properties, defining responsibilities such as mitigation measures, and clarifying the circumstances under which a mining company needs to make an offer to buy affected land.