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HG Alert: New Water Amendments in the Pipeline - 21 May 2010

The Queensland Government today passed legislation to achieve a different balance between ensuring the continued growth of the coal seam gas (CSG) industry and the protection of landowner rights.

The South-East Queensland Water (Distribution and Retail Restructuring) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2010 amends current legislation, including the Environmental Protection Act 1994 and the Water Act 2000, with the aim of creating a more sustainable CSG industry and increasing certainty for both CSG proponents and landowners.

Key amendments

The key impacts on CSG companies will be as follows:

When applying for a level 1 environmental authority, the Environmental Management Plan (EMP) must also consider the impact on underground water supplies. The EMP is now required to include information about:

  • the quantity of CSG water that the applicant expects will be generated;
  • the expected flow rate of the CSG water;
  • the quality of the CSG water, including changes in water quality;
  • the proposed management of the water (including the use, treatment, storage or disposal); and
  • the measurable criteria against which the applicant will monitor and assess the effectiveness of the management of the CSG water.

The use of evaporation dams are now prohibited, except where the EMP:

  • includes an evaluation of best practice environmental management for managing the CSG water and alternative ways for managing the water; and
  • shows there is no feasible alternative to a CSG evaporation dam for managing the water.

The annual return provided to the Environmental Protection Agency must now include an evaluation of the effectiveness of management of CSG water.

Existing CSG authorities

For current CSG tenements, the amendments have the following consequences:

  • The prohibition on evaporation ponds will not apply where construction of the dam has substantially commenced prior to the commencement day.
  • The holder of an existing CSG authority must, within 1 year after the commencement day, give the administering authority a revised EMP that takes into account the factors listed above.

These are significant changes for the CSG industry. If you have any queries regarding the above, please contact HopgoodGanim’s Resources and Energy team.