Farming communities in designated priority agricultural areas near Chinchilla fear the Queensland Government has knowingly put them at risk of water and land contamination, with plans for coal seam gas wells to be drilled at the former Linc Energy site.
Arrow Energy plans to drill CSG wells across 2,500 km² of land in the Western Downs, including on two new petroleum licences granted this year that sit above and near the former Linc underground coal gasification site.
One of the environmental authorities granted to Arrow prohibits CSG drilling within 10km of the Linc site due to the risk of mobilising the “existing contamination” but the second authority does not, and instead only requires groundwater monitoring.
Worryingly, a number of CSG wells have already been drilled by other gas companies within a 10km radius of the Linc contamination site, and landholders now fear this may have already spread the contamination.
Chinchilla resident and former Hopeland landholder Shay Dougall said landholders had never been consulted regarding the impacts of the CSG industry on their businesses, let alone the additional risk of the Linc contamination.
“Landholders in our region only became aware of these new Arrow Energy licences when there was a vague announcement by the government of a new major project that seemed to be over the properties,” she said.
“The Queensland Labor Government never should have granted gas licences to Arrow Energy on top of the Linc contamination site earlier this year. It’s an incredibly risky thing to do.
“This is just another example of the government showing total disregard for landholders, and favouring big mining over citizens’ wellbeing.”
“If the government is saying there is a risk of mobilising the ‘existing contamination’ into prime agricultural land due to the CSG activities, the correct action is to deny the petroleum leases and not take more risks with prime agricultural land and our businesses.
“It has been by pure happenstance that we discovered this risk of contamination, with a reference to it buried in a government document, then it became even more concerning when the inconsistencies between documents were discovered.
“The fact that local residents and landholders have never been consulted or even advised about this shows a total disregard for our homes and our farm businesses, and once again demonstrates the government’s questionable decision making.
Mrs Dougall said, “I personally raised these concerns about CSG drilling spreading the Linc contamination with the Queensland Government back in 2016, but was told there were no issues.
“How can we possibly believe this seemingly arbitrary 10km exclusion zone will do anything to protect farming families and prime agricultural land, when the conditions are not even applied consistently across environmental authorities? What happens to landholders who are just 13km from the Linc site?”
The Environmental Authority for PL493 permits 70 CSG wells in total, but has water conditions which state that:
"Water 1A The extraction of groundwater as part of the petroleum activity(ies) from underground aquifers must not directly or indirectly influence the mobilisation of existing groundwater contamination on Lot 40 DY85, in such a way that increases the risk of harm to groundwater environmental values.
Water 1B The environmental holder must not locate any coal seam gas production wells within 10kilometres of the centre of Lot 40 DY85
Water 1C Groundwater impact modelling. The administering authority may require the environmental authority holder to model the impacts of coal seam gas production activities on groundwater contamination around Lot 40 DY85 at any time and present the findings to the administering authority within 30 days from the date of the request or a timeframe that has been agreed with the administering authority. "
The Environmental Authority for PL253 permits 6 specific wells, but does not have a similar condition to PL493 prohibiting wells within the 10km radius of Linc. Instead, it says:
"The holder must develop and submit to the administering authority by 30 October 2018, a comprehensive Groundwater Characteristics Monitoring Program that will provide early notification of changes in groundwater flow direction and quality in relation to groundwater conditions on Lot 40 DY85".