Landowners say Arrow Energy’s $1m fine for drilling deviated CSG wells isn’t enough

Western Downs farmers say a $1million fine on Arrow Energy will do little to encourage companies to comply with Queensland’s resource regulations.

The State Resources Department imposed the fine after investigating the company’s activities between 2018 and 2022.

He found that Arrow Energy’s program of drilling “deviated” wells under farmland, often without knowledge or consent, violated the state’s land access framework.

Dalby farmer Zena Ronnfeldt said the penalty was a good step, but she was extremely disappointed with the small fine.

“Arrow Energy has drilled 48 illegal wells on the properties of 13 landowners, so the amount of a fine equates to less than $21,000 per well,” she said.

“[It’s] just a petty cash to a business.

Resources Minister Scott Stewart says the government is cracking down on companies doing the wrong thing.(ABC News: Tim Swanston)

“damage to reputation”

Ms Ronnfeldt said she was still grappling with the fallout from the diversion of the wells on her property, including the subsidence that affected the potential drainage of water from the paddocks.

She said the state government did not order Arrow Energy to take corrective action, meaning farmers were no better off.

But Resources Minister Scott Stewart defended the amount of the fine imposed on Arrow Energy.

He said the ruling showed the government was cracking down on companies doing the wrong thing.

“While this is a million dollar hit for Arrow, it’s more about their reputational damage,” Mr Stewart said.

A CSG well in the middle of a wheat paddock near Dalby in August 2019.
Landowners say 48 “deviated wells” were drilled between 2018 and 2022.(South Queensland ABC: Nathan Morris)

“We made mistakes”

Arrow Energy said it accepts the ministry’s decision and the sanction.

“We recognize that we made mistakes in the past implementation of the deviated well model,” a spokesperson said.

The company said it remains committed to improving the way it engages landowners.

Environmental group Lock the Gate said the fine was a start, but the practice of drilling “deviated wells” continued.

“The same activity is happening now, but it has been condoned by the government,” spokeswoman Ellie Smith said.

She said the government must give farmers the option to opt out of coal gas developments on their property.

The government said authorities are continuing to investigate the issue of coal gas-induced subsidence.

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