Senate committee okays CSG bill

A BILL establishing a scientific committee to examine future coal seam gas and large coal mining developments has passed another hurdle.

Members of a cross-party Senate committee examined the bill, with their report tabled in the upper house on Wednesday night.

The committee found people appointed to the independent expert scientific committee (IESC) should be experts in the impacts of CSG extraction and coal mining on water resources.

"This may include scientists that have worked or received funding from mining organisations," the report read.

The committee was satisfied government probity and conflict of interest guidelines would protect the IESC's independence.

"The approval of these by the Australian Government Solicitor reinforces the independence and transparency of the IESC," the report read.

The Senate committee agreed the bill should require the environment minister to ensure IESC members had appropriate scientific qualifications in such fields as ecology geology, hydrology, hydrogeology, natural resource management and health.

The committee agreed that two months was sufficient for the IESC to assess new CSG and large coal mining developments, which is defined in the bill as "any coal mining activity that has, or is likely to have, a significant impact on water resources in its own right, or when considered with other developments".

This time-frame would also avoid delays in the environmental approvals process, the report read.

A "stop-the-clock" provision contained in the bill, which would pause the minister's prescribed 30-day decision period while the IESC did its work, was accepted by the Senate committee.

The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development) Bill 2012 passed the lower house in May and will now be debated in the Senate.

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