Engineers call for cautious, scientific approach to CSG

THE head of the national engineers' peak body has called for a cautious, scientific approach to coal seam gas development in New South Wales, in line with the state's Chief Scientist's recommendations.

Engineers Australia president Dr Marlene Kanga said Chief Scientist and Engineer Mary O'Kane's interim report highlighted a number of key issues which needed to be addressed.

The interim report recommended the state government implement a "world class" regulatory regime that would send a message to CSG companies that "compliance will be rigorously enforced".

Dr Kanga said it showed there was a need for more science on the facts of the growing industry, especially on the environmental impacts of CSG.

While she said there were positives and negatives, engineers needed to be part of informing communities about the impacts and what was being done to safeguard the environment.

Her comments come after Federal Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane called for more action to open up CSG reserves in NSW, labelling it his most urgent priority.

It also follows admissions by Metgasco chairman Nick Heath last week that the firm, which hopes to expand operations in the Northern Rivers, plans to drill through aquifers to access gas.

He said while the company did plan to drill through water aquifers, the community could be confident such plans would be strictly regulated.

While Ms Kanga declined to comment on the effects of drilling through aquifers, she said the Chief Scientist's report pointed to a "more rigorous regulatory approach".

"At the moment, environment impacts are assessed on a case by case basis, and I think it's very important to address the impact as a whole on the environment," she said.

Dr Kanga also said recent revelations the state government planned to change references to "coal seam gas" to "natural gas from coal seams" did not address the key issues.

She said changing the term used in government would not change what the process actually was, and engineers involved needed to ensure the community knew about the reality of such operations.

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