BSA wishes to convey to all members and landholders the critical importance of seeking independent legal advice on all aspects of CSG development on your land as any Conduct and Compensation Agreement you enter into with a CSG company will:
• Lie with the land – that is, it will bind you, your children/grandchildren and future purchasers of your land;
• Impact the value of your land – the first thing Buyers in the future will want is a copy of your Conduct and Compensation Agreement to see what has been negotiated; and
• Will alter and limit future uses of your land
The laws applying to CSG development are very complex to traverse and negotiating Conduct and Compensation Agreements is simply NOT something you can do on your own.
Government offers landholders a Legal Aid service that provides, free, non-means tested legal advice in relation to interactions with resource companies. The Legal Aid service can be contacted by phoning 1300 65 1188.
Further, under the relevant legislation the energy companies must pay for “necessary and reasonable” legal advice in negotiating a Conduct and Compensation Agreement. Private legal advice may not be as expensive as you would expect.
- The Queensland Government benefits economically from CSG development and gives priority to facilitating and fast-tracking development of this industry.
- The Qld Government has given tenure to various companies for the extraction of petroleum and gas from Gladstone to Goondiwindi in the Surat and BowenBasins, subject to those companies meeting various conditions.
- In October 2010 the Federal Government gave conditional environmental approvals (under Federal Environmental Law) for Gladstone Liquefied Natural Gas (GLNG) – a $16 billion joint venture between Santos, Malaysia’s Petronas and France’s Total – and BG Group’s Queensland Curtis LNG to proceed – giving security to CSG industry and the drilling of wells in the Surat and Bowen Basins.
- The gas for these enormous projects will have to be sourced (from Surat, Bowen and GalileeBasins) and if you “do the math” it means the CSG companies may well be drilling on your land at some stage in the future.
- Associated infrastructure with gas field development carries enormous implications for landowners with a cobweb of gathering pipelines below ground and a host of infrastructure above ground – compressor stations, roads, pipelines, major pipelines, holding ponds, and large storage ponds.
- CSG development is already happening in these Basins and will be rapidly expanding in order for companies to meet export targets by 2014.
The major CSG companies operating in Queensland are Arrow, Origin, QGC and Santos. There are a number of smaller firms.
Ownership of tenure can and does change. For example, company takeovers, or one company purchasing tenure from another company.
As landholder, you may find that you 1) have more than one company with Petroleum & Gas tenure over your property and or 2) have both Mineral Resources and Petroleum & Gas tenure over your property (i.e. coal and gas).
The business of extracting CSG differs among companies. To get an idea of the different practises you may look at the particular company’s Environmental Impact Statements, Environmental Management Plans and Environmental Authorities. These documents generally provide an idea of the company’s development plans. Be prepared. The first time you look at these documents they may seem daunting. Seek help if you are having difficulty. Remember it will get easier if you persevere. You must understand what is happening if you are to make good decisions.
As a landholder, the tenure of ownership of your land gives you rights to the surface of your land.
The tenure of the CSG company gives that company rights to access the resource under your land (which belongs to the Crown/Government). The government gives the companies the right to buy and extract this resource.
Effectively the surface of your land (for which you have rights) is the gateway to the CSG company accessing the gas resource they are entitled to (for which they have rights).
Additionally, the surface of your land may be the planned pathway for major pipelines not necessarily associated with gas field development on your land.
As a landholder you should BE AWARE THAT YOU HAVE RIGHTS. The CSG company must consult with you and it has an obligation to minimise impact on your land and business. They cannot obstruct or interfere with your business and equally you also have an obligation to avoid obstructing their activities.
On larger projects the companies will either voluntarily, or by compulsion, do an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). This is a document which assesses the likely impacts of a project and identifies how the impacts can be minimised. This assists the regulator to determine how to assess the project. The CSG company will firstly develop a Terms of Reference (TOR) for the EIS – which outlines what environmental impacts they intend to consider in the EIS. The TOR is made publicly available for comment and you can have input.
The CSG company will then undertake an environment impact study and publish a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for public comment. CSG companies are required to put a notice in the newspaper to invite submissions from any person and/or organisation that wishes to make comment in respect of the draft. Again you can have input.
The Government reviews the EIS and submissions and then provides Environmental Authority for the project to proceed (the Environmental Authority may include conditions based on the assessment of the EIS and submissions)
Smaller projects might not go through this process and just go straight to obtaining an Environmental Authority. Again, in many cases you can have input into this process.
Be aware that (regardless of how unfair it may seem) CSG companies are not required to write to you to tell you that they are doing an EIS or applying for an EA that will affect your land. It is therefore a good idea to make it a regular practice to read Public Notices in local and metropolitan newspapers and keep watch.
When access is eventually required on your land, the CSG company will contact you to negotiate a “Conduct and Compensation Agreement.”
WHAT CAN YOU DO AS A LANDHOLDER TO HELP YOURSELF?
- Check to see which CSG company/s has tenure over your property. See Government website: http://www.dme.qld.gov.au/mines/tenure_maps.cfm
- Educate yourself about the CSG company which has tenure over your land.
- Calculate the “Worst- Case” CSG Well Impact Scenario for your land given the CSG Company’s conceptual gasfield development plans. To help you, BSA is developing a CSG Well Calculator which will be available soon at www.basinsustainabilityalliance.org
- Understand that YOU HAVE RIGHTS over your land – It simply may not be possible for the CSG company to roll out its conceptual gas field development plans across your property if it intends to avoid unreasonably interfering with your business.
- Engage your solicitor in all your communications and negotiations with the CSG Company from the outset.
- Take stock of your business and consider your future development plans for your land and the multi-functionality value your land offers without CSG development.
- If you have a water licence entitling you to take groundwater, you will need to be proactive in protecting your long-term water supply. Check your licence details particularly to see from which aquifer you are licensed to take water from, check the proximity of your water supply aquifer to the Walloon Coal Measures and take this information along with your water bore logs to your solicitor.
- Gather baseline information with independent advice and using recognised baseline guidelines: water, air, noise, visual, etc.
- Seek independent professional advice on Land Valuations, Agronomy, Hydrology and Engineering to help you develop your negotiating position with the CSG Company. These professionals can advise on recent changes in land valuation and the impact of CSG operations on land values, impacts of CSG operations on the productivity of your farming or grazing operation, vulnerability of your current water bores and likely impact of CSG infrastructure on your operations.
- Understand that CSG development on your land is business – and serious business at that – get everything in writing and always respond in writing so that you establish a paper trail of correspondence between yourself and the company representative/s.
- Talk to your neighbours and nearby landholders, as the CSG footprint each of you consider or potentially sign off on could affect each of you.
- You cannot rely on the CSG Company to fully disclose all their plans for your land to you and this will make it difficult for you to consider the full impact on your land and business. You need to do your own research and study fully any environmental management plans and/or environmental authorities that impact you.
- If possible, BSA recommends meeting your CSG Landholder Liaison Officer on neutral territory such as your solicitor’s office rather than meeting across the kitchen table in your family home.
- Under the new land access legislation, resources companies are now required to pay for a landholders’ reasonable legal and accounting advice when negotiating a land access, compensation or deferral agreement.