Arrow Energy said a large portion of its 1300 staff would be lost if legislation to ban coal seam gas activity from prime agricultural land in Queensland passes.
The Protection of Prime Agricultural Land and Other Land from Coal Seam Gas Mining Bill 2013 was first introduced to Queensland parliament in June, with the Agriculture, Resources and Environment Committee now holding public hearings on the matter.
The committee, chaired by Member for Lockyer Ian Rickuss, is seeking to determine whether coal seam gas activity should be banned from prime farming land across the Darling Downs and in other parts of the state.
The bill seeks to prohibit “all coal seam gas exploration mining activities east of the Condamine River from Chinchilla to the New South Wales border and from the Longitudinal line running directly through the ChinChilla Post Office east to the coast”.
The proposed changes have been meet with mixed reactions by both sides of the debate, highlighting the widening divide between those for and against the CSG industry.
In a written submission, Arrow Energy, a gas company looking to develop an LNG facility on Curtis Island, said that coal seam gas production and farming can coexist, warning that if the bill was to pass a large number of its 1300 people workforce could be cut.
“..we find the draft bill extremely concerning, proposing as it does to remove, without compensation or consideration of reputational damages to Queensland, our business foundations, including ongoing supply obligations to Queensland has users, and deny developments of a new and valuable export project.”
“Further, it would result in immediate loss of employment for a large portion of our 1300 staff, and necessary termination of contracts for goods and services from many local and regional suppliers.”
The company said it has set out twelve “Coexistence Commitments” which aim to minimise impacts of CSG activity to famers.
These include minimising operational footprint to less than 2% of total intensively farmed land on its tenure areas, maximising spacing and flexibility on CSG well locations and lessening operational impacts by using pitless drilling technology.
The company said the current legislative and policy framework is providing the adequate protection.
While yesterday the hearing heard from Queensland Resources Council resources policy director Andrew Barger who said the state’s economy would be boosted with the integration of the sectors.
"We are fortunate we have an energy source that is craved by our neighbours across south-east Asia," Barger said.
"We are in a very unique position," he said.
Barger said the Bill was out-dated and said passing the legislation would “open a Pandora’s box of issues”.
"If this bill was to be passed it would be extremely dramatic," he said.
"The state's reputation in relation to investment would be severely damaged.
"You would effectively be putting up a sign saying we are closed for business.
"Not only now, but into the future."
But with growing concerns that water and CSG don’t mix, other groups want the Bill ratified.
The Condamine Catchment Management Association says it wholeheartedly supports the Bill saying it will act to provide farmers with security over their land.
“Preference is being given to mining and coal seam gas enterprises, which have a limited life, in preference to the long term need to save water resources and the most productive agricultural land,” the group said.
“Depletion of high quality aquifers is a real possibility,” it said.
While the Queensland Murray-Darling Committee also wants to see the legislation enacted stating that “agricultural areas should not be exposed to the hazards of CSG mining contamination such as brine and salt.”
“Connectivity issues and the risk that the extraction of coal seam gas water will lead to the depletion of water quality and quantity in aquifers must be adequately legislated for,” it said.
With public hearings now finalised, the committee is set to report back to parliament on December 9.
CSG has brought $60 billion in investment in new Queensland projects and has created about 10,000 jobs in the past year.
Queensland’s coal seam gas sector has experienced significant growth over the past 15 years and has previously been earmarked by the state government as the “forefront of Queensland’s petroleum industry”.
However, the sector has been the subject of many protests and opposition, with anti-CSG activists arguing there is insufficient scientific evidence it will not affect water tables, the environment and the health of communities residing by wells.