Scenic Rim locals and their supporters are demanding the Palaszczuk Government put the region permanently off limits to coal seam gas, amid revelations Shell and PetroChina-owned Arrow Energy still hopes to explore for gas on huge tenements near Ipswich, Beaudesert, and Boonah.
Two of Arrow’s Authority to Prospect licences in the region were scheduled to expire in 2018 and 2019. However, prior to this, Arrow and its joint venture partners lodged Potential Commercial Area applications over the tenements, ensuring they remained live. If the government approves these PCA applications, it will once again allow Arrow to explore and drill for coal seam gas in the Scenic Rim.
The tenements in question are ATP 644, which stretches about 30km from just west of Jimboomba to west of Kerry, and ATP 641, which stretches from the western suburbs of Ipswich south to Boonah and west to Main Range National Park. The tenements also cover farmland mapped as priority agricultural land and strategic cropping land (see mapping here).
Arrow is actively working on these tenements, and recently undertook water monitoring activities at ATP 644.
Coal seam gas exploration was a flashpoint for community anger and protest in the Scenic Rim about a decade ago. In response, then Premier Campbell Newman told Arrow Energy that his government would not approve drilling in the region.
The revelations that Arrow Energy is hopeful it will once again be awarded the right to drill for gas in the Scenic Rim come after the company was recently fined $1 million for illegally drilling beneath farmers’ properties near Dalby on the Western Downs. But the fine has done little to reassure local farmers, who have accused the multinational company of treating them and Queensland’s planning laws with contempt.
Keep the Scenic Rim Scenic spokesperson Innes Larkin said, “Arrow Energy has shown contempt for farmers on the Western Downs. We who live in the beautiful Scenic Rim don’t want this environmental vandal trashing our special place.
“The Scenic Rim must remain scenic, so people today and long into the future can visit and appreciate its natural wonders.
“We’re calling on the Annastacia Palaszczuk Government to cancel these gas tenements once and for all, so we can have solace that the Scenic Rim will not be sacrificed to the scourge of unconventional gas mining.”
Lock the Gate Alliance Queensland Coordinator Ellie Smith said better planning laws to protect the state’s best farming country, cultural heritage sites, and environmentally significant places were long overdue.
“The suffering of farmers on the Western Downs is proof the unconventional gas industry cannot coexist with agriculture,” she said.
“The Palaszczuk Government must strengthen the Regional Planning Interests Act so polluting coal seam gas is no longer allowed to lay waste to the most precious places in Queensland.
“Unconventional gas is being allowed to spread across Queensland like a festering sore with no laws to rein it in. The RPIA should prevent it from wrecking the most fragile parts of the state, but in practice gas companies merely need to apply to drill in these places. To date, not a single application by a gas company to do so has been refused.
“The Palaszczuk Government must now do the work that should have occurred more than two decades ago. The government must implement an immediate moratorium on any more unconventional gas drilling, and permanently ban it where it threatens communities, our best farmland, and areas of cultural, historical, and environmental significance.
“In the meantime, these exploration licences in the tourism, farming, and ecological hot spot of the Scenic Rim should be cancelled.”
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The tenements in question are ATP641(PCA222) and ATP 644 (PCA198). They are owned by BNG (70%) and Arrow (30%), however, as Arrow is owned by Shell (50%) and PetroChina (50%) and BNG is 100% owned by Shell, the true ownership split is Shell 85%, PetroChina 15%.