Final Report: September 2014

Executive Summary

This report is the final and overarching report of the independent review of coal seam gas activities in NSW (the Review) undertaken by the Chief Scientist and Engineer. It presents the main findings and recommendations of the Review along with a summary of Government decisions regarding CSG over the time of the Review and a description of the Review process.

The Review was commissioned on 21 February 2013 by the former Premier, in a climate of community
unease about CSG extraction.

The initial report of the Review was released in July 2013. In June 2014 the Review released reports on related matters referred to it by Government (cumulative impacts of activities in the Sydney Water Catchment, and placement of monitoring equipment for NSW water resources). At that time it also released a report on whether adequate financial mechanisms are in place to deal with possible environmental impacts from CSG and related operations.

With the release of this final report, the Review is also releasing reports on regulatory compliance and managing risk.

In preparing these reports, the Review drew on information from a large number of experts from around the world in a range of fields. It also consulted extensively with community groups, industry and government agencies. 

Having considered all the information from these sources and noting the rapid evolution of technological developments applicable to CSG from a wide range of disciplines, the Review concluded that the technical challenges and risks posed by the CSG industry can in general be managed through:

  • careful designation of areas appropriate in geological and land-use terms for CSG extraction
  • high standards of engineering and professionalism in CSG companies
  • creation of a State Whole-of-Environment Data Repository so that data from CSG industry operations can be interrogated as needed and in the context of the wider environment
  • comprehensive monitoring of CSG operations with ongoing automatic scrutiny of the resulting data
    a well-trained and certified workforce, and
  • application of new technological developments as they become available.

All of this needs to take place within a clear, revised, legislative framework which is supported by an effective and transparent reporting and compliance regime and by drawing on appropriate expert advice.

Of course, as the technologies involved are applied in new regions where the detailed hydrogeology is not yet fully characterised, there could be unexpected events, learnings, or even accidents. 

This is common for new applications in the extractive industries and underlines the need for Government and industry to approach these issues with eyes wide open, a full appreciation of the risks, complete transparency, rigorous compliance, and a commitment to addressing any problems promptly with rapid emergency response and effective remediation. 

It also highlights the need to record and capitalise on the data and knowledge gained from CSG extraction activities in new regions and to take advantage of new technology developments which, if harnessed appropriately, can make CSG production increasingly safer and more efficient over time.

The full final report from the Independent Review of CSG Activities in New South Wales can be viewed here.