Read the factsheet: 'Coal seam gas protections and controls'

The NSW Government has introduced the toughest regulations in Australia to protect the State's prime agricultural land and our important industries including farming, fisheries, crops, livestock, horse breeding, wine-making and horticulture from any potential impacts of coal seam gas (CSG) activities.

The NSW Government regulates the CSG industry using the following controls:

  • CSG operations, including exploration, assessment or production titles, are required to hold an Environment Protection Licence web page
  • the agricultural impacts of a project must specifically be addressed by the applicant in an Agricultural Impact Statement, at both the exploration and development application stages
  • a 2km residential exclusion zone now applies to exploration and production activities for residential and village areas.

Regulation

The independent Environment Protection Authority (EPA) web page is the lead regulator for compliance with and enforcement of conditions of gas activity instruments in NSW. A Memorandum of Understanding setting out the responsibilities of the EPA and other agencies on regulation of gas activities in NSW was updated in July 2016. Read more about the Memorandum of Understanding on the regulation of gas activities in NSW PDF (5.1 MB PDF).

The Division of Resources and Energy (DRE) is responsible for administering petroleum titles under the Petroleum (Onshore) Act 1991 web page which includes approval, renewal, suspension and cancellation of titles and associated processes.

Legislation

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA), NSW Department of Planning and Infrastructure, Division of Resources and Energy, Office of Environment and Heritage and DPI Water oversee the CSG industry through various Acts and regulations including:

  • Petroleum (Onshore) Act 1991
  • Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979
  • Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997
  • Water Management Act 2000; Water Act 1912
  • Work Health and Safety (Mine and Petroleum Sites) Act 2013
  • Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995
  • Heritage Act 1977
  • Environmentally Hazardous Chemicals Act 1985

Strategic Regional Land Use Policy

The Strategic Regional Land Use Policy PDF (128 KB PDF) protects strategic agricultural land through an independent scientific assessment before the development application stage. This is known as the Gateway Process. Under the Gateway Process, a panel of independent experts assesses the agricultural and water impacts of a proposal against set criteria. If a proposal cannot demonstrate that it meets these criteria, it will be subject to recommendations that must be addressed at the development application stage.

To ensure community concerns are adequately addressed, the NSW Government appointed the State's first Land and Water Commissioner web page in 2012. Farmers and landholders can contact the Commissioner for guidance during any stage of an application, exploration or production process. The Commissioner also provides information about compliance and enforcement matters, land access agreements, remuneration, compensation and the rights and responsibilities of exploration companies.

Other controls

What is banned in NSW?

As part of these rigorous new regulations, the NSW Government has banned the use of BTEX chemicals (Benzene, Toulene, Ethylbenzene and Xylene) as additives during drilling, banned evaporation ponds for the disposal of produced water and introduced measures to encourage the treatment and beneficial re-use of the water.

Restricted areas

  • Residential Exclusions – new coal seam gas activity is prohibited in and within a 2 kilometre buffer around existing residential areas, future residential growth areas or nominated additional rural village land.
  • Equine Critical Industry Cluster (CIC) – areas which have been assessed by the NSW Government as being important for horse breeding and training. CSG activities are not allowed within these clusters.
  • Viticulture Critical Industry Cluster (CIC) – areas which have been assessed by the NSW Government as being important for grape cultivation known as viticulture, and the viticultural hospitality industries. CSG activities are not allowed within these clusters.
  • Statewide Biophysical Strategic Agricultural Land (BSAL) – areas which have the best quality soil and water resources and are capable of sustaining high levels of productivity. CSG activities may be approved on these lands based on the decision of an independent panel.
  • Conservation Zones – areas which are covered by the National Parks Estate including national parks, nature reserves, historic sites, karst conservation reserves (cave areas), marine parks, marine reserves, regional parks and aboriginal areas. CSG activities are not allowed in these zones. Please note: CSG activities may be allowed in State Conservation Areas.

Incident reporting

To report concerns about CSG activity and the environment, contact the EPA hotline on 131 555 or visit the EPA's Environment Line web page web page.