CSG regulation changes 'subjective'

THE Productivity Commission has found that the lack of scientific certainty around the impacts of coal seam gas has increased the risk of regulatory decisions being driven by subjective judgements rather than best practice.
CSG regulation changes 'subjective' CSG regulation changes 'subjective' CSG regulation changes 'subjective' CSG regulation changes 'subjective' CSG regulation changes 'subjective'


James McGrath

Releasing its draft report into the barriers of resource extraction, it said CSG in particular had been the victim of community concern rather than scientific process driving regulatory change.

“Scientific uncertainty should not lead to poor regulatory processes or decision,” it said.

However, it said the uncertainty had to be taken into account when making regulatory decisions.

“A precautionary approach should be adopted where there is concern of substantial or permanent damage,” it said.

“Nor does scientific uncertainty reduce the need to identify the benefits and costs of exploration activities.

“Rather the presence of scientific uncertainty is one factor that should be considered when deciding whether resource exploration can be reasonably expected to increase the community’s wellbeing.”

Regulatory changes to CSG arrangements have been something of a hot topic lately, with regulatory changes by New South Wales chasing off smaller players such as Metgasco and Dart Energy, while the federal government is attempting to introduce a “water trigger” mechanism into the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

“These changes stem from the pressures generated from the rapid expansion of the industry, uncertainty as to the impacts of CSG activities and concerns and opposition from some landholders and others in the community,” the report read.

“Faced with these pressures, governments have searched for appropriate regulatory responses.

“Further changes to improve the regulation of CSG should be based on the best available evidence of the impacts and be appropriate to the level of risk.”

The commission noted that the industry said there was a lack of consultation with key stakeholders when changing regulation.

The report said current regulation was skewed towards appeasing community concern rather than assessing the pros and cons of a particular application.

“But policy processes have sometimes failed to assess the more widely dispersed benefits for the wider community,” it said.

“Mitigation of the concerns of the immediate community appears to be driving some of the recent regulatory responses.”

The commission is seeking feedback on the draft report by July 15.

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