In 2013 the Commonwealth Parliament passed an amendment to the Environment Biodiversity and Conservation Act 1999 (Cth) that expanded the remit for the Federal Environment Minister when considering an approval for a development. Under the Act, development must be referred to the Minister for approval when it is of national environmental significance. The amendment added the protection of water resources at risk from coal seam gas or large coal mining activities.
The Independent Review of this amendment found that prior to 2013, there existed a regulatory gap with regards to the cumulative impacts of coal seam gas and coal mining on water degradation. The amendment therefore represents an appropriate mechanism to meet this regulatory gap and has additionally improved adaptive management approaches, increased scientific understanding about the casual relationship between such developments and water degradation, and assisted the government regulating the broad nature and scale of developments of this type. Furthermore, public confidence has been satisfied by the amendment as an additional layer of scrutiny and precaution is now taken in approving high-risk developments.
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