Pressure is mounting on the state government to reveal what it is doing about allegations that a multinational energy company has been illegally drilling for coal seam gas under Western Downs' farmers properties.
Farmers and the state's independent gas commission are calling for answers following ongoing accusations that Arrow Energy, owned by Shell and PetroChina, has been drilling directional wells without the necessary planning approvals or entry notices.
It has been nine months since Zena Ronnfeldt, who crops 2500ha with her family and is based at Kupunn, 20km southwest of Dalby, discovered the alleged unlawful activity and reported it.
"I found one thing after another that the company was doing unlawfully and I reported the unlawful activity, but the planning department left it in the too hard basket for a really, really, really long time," Mrs Ronnfeldt said.
"You owe money to the bank and you've got to make ongoing investment decisions on your asset, so what is your position then when you have a government that is standing back?"
Mrs Ronnfeldt said Arrow Energy still did not have a notice of entry, a conduct and compensation agreement, or a regional interests development approval in place for the wells operating today on their property.
"Arrow Energy continue to operate unlawful directional wells on our property, including one well directly under our largest dam which has now started to seep," she said.
"From the subsidence (sinking) I've seen on our property and our dam which is now leaking, I can see the impacts are going to be more than significant where we are on the western edge of the Condamine Alluvium."
The farmer has called for a pause on their activities and for an independent inquiry and a watchdog.
Last week, Resources Minister Scott Stewart confirmed the government was investigating the company but did not provide details.
"The Department of Resources is currently investigating Arrow Energy's activities," Mr Stewart said in a statement.
"The government expects all parties involved in the resources industry to meet their obligations under the resources framework."
On Tuesday, GasFields Commission Queensland CEO Warwick Squire said it had formally requested the state government provide details of its expectations on compliance and how resource companies were meeting these statutory requirements under the Regional Planning Interests Act.
"...We are now calling on the government to finalise their investigations into compliance issues as a matter of urgency," Mr Squire said in a statement.
"This will provide much needed community assurance that the state's regulatory framework requirements are being enforced."
A Commission report which was delivered to the government in October found a lack of transparency and clarity around statutory obligations associated with the RPI Act.
The report found the use of exemptions to the RIDA process meant stakeholders and the government had difficulty determining the extent and types of activities being undertaken.
"Yesterday the Commission received confirmation that the government has now considered our seven recommendations and supports four of the recommendations and supports in principle the remaining three recommendations," Mr Squire said.
An Arrow Energy spokesperson said it was cooperating with the government's investigation and was committed to following regulations.
"We know we made mistakes in the early implementation of the multi-well pad and deviated wells model and have previously acknowledged that we need to do better," a spokesperson said in a statement.
"The Queensland government is reviewing our actions with respect to a number of deviated wells and we are cooperating fully. We are committed to meeting all regulatory compliance requirements, including the Regional Planning Interest Act.
"Our goal remains to build and maintain long-term positive landholder relationships based on openness and trust."
AgForce CEO Michael Guerin said while the steps taken by Arrow to improve relations with landowners on prime ag land and impacted by subsidence had been proactive, AgForce members aligned with QGFC in requesting improved assurances.
"We remain gravely concerned that the primary legislative tool tasked with resolving regional planning interests is inadequate for protecting prime agricultural lands, and believe our land use protection principles should ideally underpin the coexistence issues QGFC outlines," Mr Guerin said.
"A key change in delivering this outcome is for the drilling of deviated wells underneath a landholder's property to only be authorised with the appropriate protections of a comprehensive conduct and compensation agreement, particularly in light of government data confirming land subsidence on floodplain cropping areas."
As of early 2021, there were approximately 8600 CSG wells in the Surat cumulative management area, and this is forecast to increase to about 22,000 wells over the next 15 to 20 years.
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