New environmental and noise guidelines for resource activities
New guidelines have been released spelling out the obligation for petroleum and gas activities, including coal seam gas, to meet new requirements for notification of environmental damage, as well as noise management.
Under the Environmental Protection Act 1994 (EP Act), Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM) and owners of land must be notified if serious or material environmental harm has been caused or threatened.
There is also an additional duty to notify of petroleum, gas, geothermal or greenhouse gas activity licensed by an environmental authority where the activity:
- causes or threatens a negative impact on the water quality of an aquifer that is not authorised under the EP Act; or
- causes the connection of two or more aquifers that is not authorised under the Act.
Notification is required to be given by a person who carries out an activity where either their activities have caused or threatened harm or activities carried out by another person which are associated with their activities, have caused or threatened harm.
Where the duty to notify arises, a person may be required to notify one or more of the following, depending on their obligations:
- their employer or the person who has contracted or engaged their services;
- the administering authority; and/or
- owners or occupiers of affected land.
All notices must include information on the nature of the event and the circumstances in which it happened. The requirements compel:
- Employees to notify their employer verbally within 24 hours of becoming aware of the event.
- The employer to notify administering authorities in writing within 24 hours of becoming aware of the event. As a matter of good practice, both the local council and DERM should be notified.
- The employer to notify the landowner by writing and/or by public notice, as soon as reasonably practicable, on becoming aware of the event.
The EP Act also provides for the management and regulation of noise sources generated by petroleum and gas activities, including permanent installations such as well head equipment and compressor stations; intermittent operations such as drilling, work over and hydraulic fracturing; and ancillary operations such as rig movements, water tankers and gravel trucks.
The DERM guidelines recognise that these noise sources may impact upon environmental values – in particular, the wellbeing of an individual, including the individual’s opportunity to have sleep, relaxation, and conversation without unreasonable interference from intrusive noise.