SHALE gas will remain outside the remit of a federal body charged with overseeing major coal-seam gas projects despite relying on hydraulic fracturing 100 per cent of the time.
Duck Island Partners beef stud co-principal James Darling, Keith, is concerned that shale and tight gas are not within the brief of the Federal Government's Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development, formed in November last year.
"It means you have to fight in order for the full complement of issues to be dealt with," he said.
"And the scientific body only has an advisory role and no power – all these things amount to major concerns."
The IESC was formed in November 2012 to improve the collective scientific understanding of the water-related impacts of CSG – which typically relies on fracking 30pc of the time – and the transparency of large coal mining developments.
SA is a signatory to a national agreement that will result in CSG applications having significant adverse impacts on water resources being referred to the committee for non-legally binding advice.
An IESC spokesperson admitted that many of the issues associated with shale gas were "closely related to those associated with CSG".
But she confirmed that shale gas was "beyond the committee's remit".
"They are complex issues where there is often no simple answer," she said.
Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke recently passed amendments to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 in Federal Parliament to ensure CSG and large coal developments were assessed by the IESC and approved federally.
The bill was debated in the Senate this week.
Mr Burke said onshore mining operations, including shale and tight gas exploration and development, were primarily licensed and regulated under state or territory legislation.
"Under national environmental law, the Federal Government would become involved when a shale gas project had the potential to have an impact on matters of national environmental significance, such as nationally threatened and migratory species, wetlands of international importance or national or world heritage places," he said.
Federal Opposition Water spokesperson Barnaby Joyce says the IESC must investigate the potential environmental impact from all unconventional gas activities and other gas industries "and they must be able to work at arm's length from state governments".
"The Nationals released a five-point policy regarding CSG, which should also apply to the unconventional gas sector," he said.
Sen Joyce wants to ensure that:
• No CSG development should proceed where it posed a significant impact to the quality of groundwater or surface water systems. "You must not destroy aquifers. These are common property and need protection," he said.
• Prime agricultural land must be protected.
• CSG development must not occur close to existing residential areas.
• Landowners would be entitled to appropriate pecuniary returns. Remuneration should not be limited to compensation.
• A share of CSG revenues to be reinvested in the regional communities from where they are generated.
Earlier this year, Federal MP and Katter's Australian Party leader Bob Katter introduced a different bill to place a two-year moratorium on CSG aquifer drilling.
Wells were being drilled into productive agricultural areas of Queensland by companies that were almost entirely foreign-owned.
"Is it more important to make foreign corporations rich than to protect the future of our landholders and contamination of our water?" Mr Katter said.
No progress has yet been made on Mr Katter's Bill.
*Full report in Stock Journal, June 20 issue, 2013.