Steps taken to 'ease community fears': Ferguson

FEDERAL Resources Minister Martin Ferguson says the coal seam gas industry needs to address community concerns in order to retain its "social licence to operate".

In a speech to the Australian Pipeline Industry Association convention in Brisbane on Monday, Mr Ferguson said steps had been taken to ease community fears about the burgeoning CSG industry.

"Industry and governments at all levels are currently working to improve regulation and confidence and remove barriers to new activity," Mr Ferguson said.

He said the Standing Council on Energy and Resources was leading the way in this regard through the development of a Multiple Land Use Framework and a National Harmonised Framework.

The land use framework was designed to provide the CSG industry and communities with the tools to co-exist, while the harmonised framework would regulate core areas of CSG operations, he said.

"This will provide guidance to governments around issues such as well-integrity, water management and monitoring, fracking and chemical usage," he said.

"I am pleased to report that preliminary advice from SCER indicates Australia's regulatory regimes already accommodate the majority of leading practice strategies in these areas."

Mr Ferguson urged state and federal governments to continue pursuing the "highest standards and use the best evidence available when making regulatory decisions", highlighting the establishment of an Independent Expert Scientific Committee to help inform government decisions about CSG and large coal mining developments.

Mr Ferguson told the convention that gas in all its forms would become increasingly important to Australia's energy security.

He also recognised the associated benefits that come with gas, including reduced emissions. Gas-fired electricity generation, he said, produced 55% less carbon dioxide equivalent emissions.

"Natural gas is a vital transitional fuel in creating a lower emissions future for many countries," he said.

"It is relatively cheap and reliable."

He pointed to Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics estimates that gas will account for 37% of Australia's electricity supply with 20 years.

And Australia's pipeline industry had an important part to play as the growth in demand for gas increased.

"You provide the vital link between producers and consumers of these resources," he told the convention.

"This means you ultimately contribute to achieving Australia's energy security and economic and social development."