Deviated Drilling, tearing through property rights

Deviated drilling is a deeply complicated issue that is silently sneaking up on landowners, literally.  The intrusion of deviated drilling on unsuspecting landowners is coming to a head, silently.  Although PRA previously foreshadowed this issue in posts on the subject since last December. PRA is providing this update to ensure that this issue is handled openly and that landowners do not remain isolated.

Recently some landowners have received unwelcome and confronting news in the mail from Arrow Energy.  The letters advise that previously without the consent or knowledge of the farmers that Arrow have in the past drilled gas wells under their property from a point on the neighboring property. Further, they will be providing post-dated entry notices for the wells.  Arrow also note in the letter that “Arrow reasonably expects [the deviated wells] to have no impact or only minor impact”.

Again landowners are the last to know that this has occurred.  Again, individual landowners are left out of pocket (time-wise and financially) scrambling to understand the legal and practical implications. The data provided by Arrow raises more questions than it answers.  When pressed, Arrow cites commercial in confidence or limply suggests the landowner contacts the departments. 

The Departments and Gasfields Commission complete the circle of silence.  They have not been proactive in advising and supporting landowners, there has been no transparent attempt by the government bodies to allay landowners’ concerns or questions.  The Gasfields Commission is merely a clearinghouse for complaints.  The letter from Arrow indicates that there has been a failure to meet legislative obligations with regard to Entry Notices.  How is the government handling Arrow’s failure to comply? Which only raises more questions about just how deviated drilling is handled by the legislation and permitting.  What risk assessments have been done?

A development such as this that has far-reaching impacts for the landowner, warrants more than a bold letter from Arrow.  It warrants all hands on deck, an all of government response, total transparency for the individual and collective landowners from the government regarding the way the issue has failed to be addressed previously and how it will be addressed now, and open doors inviting landowner concerns and overt efforts to ensure confidence and justice for the landowner. 

Instead, the landowner gets Arrow with their fingers in their ears pushing through their preferred outcome – writing their own adventure and calling the shots from a position of information, power, and influence.    The robust regulation and the fanciful adaptive management approach again have been demonstrated to breathtakingly fail the landowner.  He has no seat at the table, begging for scraps.

The legislation has been written to enable the gas industry by a government that has a conflict of interest as owner of the gas, beneficiary and regulator of the gas industry. The legislation has been edited at a place far, far away from the site of the impacts and those expected to live with it.  It has also been edited in isolation considering only the gas industry and neglects consequences for landowners and their rights that are otherwise considered as substantive unless of course, it involves getting the gas.

PRA is calling all concerned individuals, advisors, and rural advocacy groups to reach out and work together and provide a united front on this issue which so clearly encompasses all that is wrong with the approach to the gas industry. Enough of being dictated to, and working in isolation, it is time to drag our own chair up to the table and demand consideration, consultation, and prioritisation. PRA is working hard on this issue and welcomes collaboration.

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