More than $200,000 in cropping income will be lost this season due to the effects of coal seam gas wells, a Western Downs cotton and grain grower says, with more financial damage to come.
Dalby area farmers Zena and Garry Ronnfeldt have seven Arrow Energy CSG wells on their boundary and five wells on their property, which they say have caused subsidence (sinking) on their land, particularly on a 120ha dryland paddock slated for wheat this year.
Mrs Ronnfeldt said subsidence had progressed to the extent they were unable to sow wheat in this paddock.
"The consequence for just this year alone to our gross income is a reduction of more than $200,000, plus a substantial increase to our operational costs to maintain the paddock for six to 12 months until our next planting opportunity," Mrs Ronnfeldt said.
In July, Arrow Energy was fined $1 million as a result of a Department of Resources investigation into breaches of Queensland's land access framework by Arrow from 2018 until early 2022.
Drone photos of the 120ha paddock captured on June 29 show water still pooled from the rain event 23 days prior.
The swamp-like depressions previously drained freely to Wilkie Creek, a Murray Darling system tributary, but now the water has to evaporate.
Mrs Ronnfeldt said if subsidence happened to their 400ha irrigation paddocks 1km away, a large portion of those paddocks would not be able to be cropped.
"The consequence in one year alone of not being able to grow cotton on 100 hectares of irrigation will mean a reduction in gross income of more than $1.1 million at today's price of $770 per bale," she said.
"No profit on this paddock will reduce our income tax. Our loss will flow through the economy, with the most impact to our local community."
The grower said it was critical that the true economic impact of CSG-induced subsidence in high value agricultural areas such as theirs was identified.
An Arrow Energy spokesperson said it had been engaging with landholders and the community regarding its activities for a number of years.
"Our activities are governed by a comprehensive state and federal regulatory framework," the spokesperson said.
"We remain fully committed to meeting all of our regulatory obligations and maintaining genuine coexistence with the communities in which we operate."
Research by the Office for Groundwater Impact Assessment for its Underground Water Impact Report 2021 found on average subsidence from coal seam gas activities is predicted to be less than 0.001 per cent.
However, the farmers said that methodology was flawed.
"Garry and I have repeatedly stated since last year that the OGIA UWIR 2021 prediction of slope change of 10mm to 40mm over 1km is not reflective of the reality of actual subsidence from CSG-extraction which is physically happening on our property and causing us to miss a crop this season," Mrs Ronnfeldt said.
"If available data is not reflecting what is physically happening on our property, all this means is that the data type is not actually suitable for the purpose it is being used for."
Mrs Ronnfeldt is urging there be no further drilling of wells in areas zoned priority agricultural until after paddock scale modelling with proper analysis of risks and consequences has been completed and found to be in the regional interest.
Resources Minister Scott Stewart said the independent GasFields Commission was doing a review into the potential implications of coal seam gas induced subsidence.
Mr Stewart "welcomed this work" and said while safeguards were in place, the government took these issues seriously.
"There are already a number of safeguards in place to make sure gas companies are doing the right thing but as a government we take any landholder concerns seriously."
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