The NSW government claims its proposed amendments to coal seam gas laws will strengthen landholder rights and improve environmental regulation.
Introducing the Petroleum (Onshore) Amendment Bill into the Upper House for a second reading on Tuesday, Deputy Leader of the Government Duncan Gay told parliament gas supply security is essential for maintaining a strong economy.
Gay said NSW has an estimated 511 billion cubic metres of gas, enough to supply more than a million homes with energy for over a century.
He said this bill ensures the petroleum industry will be held accountable if it doesn’t meet its environmental obligations.
“The bill proposes that directions can be issued for any adverse impact, or risk of one, that petroleum industry activities may have on any aspect of the environment,” Gay said.
"They can also be issued to rehabilitate land or water that is, or could be, affected by activities under the title."
Over the past six months representatives from the state’s landholder groups and industry have been negotiating the proposals in the bill.
One of the concerns raised during discussions was that under an environmental assessment permit gas companies may be able to explore or produce petroleum products.
“That is simply not the case,” Gay said.
“An environment assessment permit cannot be used to construct pilot gas wells. This permit only allows environmental monitoring, including regional baseline monitoring and data collection.
“This includes activities like carrying out flora or fauna studies, or water monitoring. This information needs to be collected in order to understand the impacts of a proposed activity as part of the environmental assessment process.”
To clarify activities which cannot occur under an environmental permit, the Government has included a note in the Act stipulating prospecting and mining is not allowed.
Gay said the legislation ensures landholders are not disadvantaged when making access arrangements with gas companies, setting conditions for how and when access can occur, as well as the types of activities that can be carried out.
“These arrangements clearly recognise the rights of landholders to conduct their activities free from unreasonable interference or disturbance,” he said.
Gay told parliament the provisions were decided by stakeholders at recent negotiations.
“Landholders will retain the ability to stop titleholders from entering their property where there is a breach of the requirements of an access arrangement,” he said.
Gay said the proposed amendments will be good for everyone.
"It is a package of many measures which largely reflect the wishes of landholders to have a greater say," he said.
"In totality, this is a win for landholders [and] they will have clearer and more effective protections than exist now."