The SEA is underpinned by three key principles, namely:
- Saliency: It must cover all the important issues and concerns;
- Legitimacy: It must be grounded in transparent and participatory processes; and
- Credibility: It must include groups of leading experts with rigorous scientific review structures implemented.
The SEA will be conducted as a science-based assessment to improve understanding of the risks and opportunities of shale gas development, and assist government in creating a framework and guiding principles that will inform responsible decision-making. This assessment will seek to translate existing scientific information into a form usable by policymakers and be characterised by an extensive, transparent review process by both experts and stakeholders. The SEA will consider both the exploration and production related activities and impacts of shale gas development and will include an assessment of all the material social, economic and biophysical risks and opportunities (Strategic Issues) of the industry.
Each Strategic Issue will be addressed by a Multi-Author Team. The Multi-Author Team concept relies on two principles: 1) that each Strategic Issue is addressed by a team of Authors, each a recognised expert or knowledgeable person; and 2) that remuneration is based on covering expenses rather than at a level that could be reasonably construed to constitute an inducement to give a biased finding.
Authors comprising the Multi-Author Teams within the specified Strategic Issues will require acknowledged expertise and will be drawn from a broad range of sectors such as research institutions, government, NGOs, universities, the oil and gas sector, etc. and across different regions of South Africa to ensure a broad balance of interest is represented through the reporting structures.
In light of the three principles of a successful assessment (legitimacy, saliency, credibility), the SEA will be governed by the following governance groups, which will broadly reflect the interest of the South African public.
A Project Executive Committee (PEC) will be convened, comprising the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS), the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) and the Eastern, Western and Northern Cape Provincial Governments. This group will act as a project management structure, ensuring that the assessment remains on scope, within timelines and budget; and to check on the fit between the policy questions posed in the assessment and the technical answers being provided.
A Process Custodians Group (PCG) will also be convened. This group will consist of active NGOs, the commercial sector with shale gas interests, vertical tiers of government i.e. from national to local representation and experts from research institutions. The PCG will verify that the process proposed at the outset has been implemented in a fair and unbiased manner in that suitably experienced experts have been involved in the process, review structures have been designed and implemented in a credible manner and queries/comments from the public have been adequately addressed.