Frequently Asked Questions – Arrow Energy EA amendment application
What is an environmental authority?
Under the Environmental Protection Act 1994 (EP Act), resource activities such as coal seam gas (CSG) must be issued with an environmental authority (EA) by the Department of Environment and Science before starting operations. An EA regulates how an operator manages the potential environmental risks and impacts that may be caused by their activities. The department is responsible for managing and monitoring these activities in Queensland and assessing new or amended EA applications.
What activities does Arrow Energy currently undertake in the Chinchilla area?
Arrow Energy are currently authorised under their EA (EA0001401) to undertake CSG activities on their current Petroleum Lease (PL253) in the Hopeland locality (near Chinchilla) as part of the Surat Gas Project. PL253 was granted to Arrow Energy in February 2019, permitting the commercialising of gas from 6 existing gas wells.
PL253 is in proximity to the former Linc Energy site (Lot 40 on Plan DY85), which is now under management by the Department of Resources. The site of the former Linc Energy operation is not included in overlaying tenure, PL253.
Arrow also currently holds an EA for petroleum lease PL493 located north-east of PL253. Arrow’s EA for PL493 does not currently authorise any CSG production wells within 10km of the former Linc Energy site. Arrow may apply to the department with additional information to support production activities in this area and the department will consider this during a statutory EA amendment assessment process.
The constraint on CSG production wells within 10km of the former Linc Energy site does not apply to the EA for PL253. PL253 currently only authorises 6 pilot wells. The current application proposing to increase the activities by 280 production wells will be assessed and a decision made following closing of the public submission period.
What is the new EA application for?
In July 2020, Arrow Energy applied to amend their existing EA to expand their CSG activities in the Hopeland area, including the addition of 280 wells, 440km of pipeline and other CSG-related activities.
The department made an assessment level decision that the amendment is considered a ‘major’ amendment, which requires a high level of environmental assessment. The department also issued a request for information on 27 August 2020, requiring Arrow Energy to provide further information regarding environmental impacts and detailed groundwater modelling before assessment of the application will progress. The requested information was provided in December 2020. This information will be considered with the EA amendment application and any public submission once the public notification period closes.
The department recognises the strong community interest in the proposed activity and encourages public submissions on the application.
What is a major amendment?
When making an assessment level decision, the department considers whether an EA application is a minor or major amendment based on risks of environmental harm and the scale or intensity of activities. Major amendments may trigger a public notification period allowing the public to gain access to the application and make a submission.
A major amendment to an EA requires a high level of assessment, due to an increased risk to environmental values or significant increase of the scale or intensity of the activity/s. An application that seeks to increase the surface area of the proposed activity by 10% or more is also considered a major amendment.
Arrow Energy’s EA amendment is considered a major amendment as it proposes to increase the surface area of their existing activities by more than 10% (280 wells), and may pose an increased risk to environmental values, such as the risk of groundwater contamination.
Does the Arrow Energy EA amendment application include the former Linc Energy site?
The site of the former Linc Energy operation is not included in the overlaying tenure, for Arrow Energy’s PL253, however, it does include areas in proximity to the former Linc Energy site.
While the former Linc Energy site is not included in the application, site-specific information is considered in the assessment process.
What was the excavation caution zone?
In 2015, the department established an excavation caution zone (ECZ) in response to the presence of gases in the soil in a number of locations in the Hopeland region, near Chinchilla. The ECZ was established as a result of these findings and provided cautionary advice to the community in relation to risks that these gases posed during excavation or trenching works below two metres from the surface.
In early 2018, the department removed the ECZ following extensive soil vapour sampling that showed a decline in hazardous soil gas levels in the region and a reduced risk to landholders. The department recommends that landholders still consider the cautionary advice during excavations that disturb the soil at depths of greater than two meters. More information on the ECZ and testing in the Hopeland region is available on the department’s website.
How will the department ensure that new activities will not increase the risk of environmental harm?
Resource activities (e.g. CSG) must be authorised under an environmental authority (EA) by the department before they can commence.
New and amended EA applications received by the department undergo a rigorous assessment process before a decision is made. This involves considering the proposed activities, impacts from the proposed activities on the environment (e.g. for any impacts to air, land, water, acoustics, waste etc), any measures to mitigate these impacts and in some cases, public submissions. When applying for an EA, companies must include an assessment of the likely impact of each relevant activity on the environmental values. The application also requires the applicant to provide information about how impacts to the environment will be managed. This may be provided in the form of environmental management plans. The applicant may also provide environmental modelling that identifies any risks to the environment (e.g. groundwater modelling). Environmental modelling may also be used to determine the efficacy of proposed mitigation measures.
As the environmental regulator, the department may also consider imposing conditions on any proposed activity, such as requiring systems or plans to be put in place to manage risks to the environment, to avoid or minimise release of contaminants or imposing monitoring conditions.
Additionally, site-specific information is considered when assessing EA applications, and any approved activity is subject to a number of requirements and conditions to ensure that any potential for environmental harm is minimised. Arrow Energy’s application will undergo public notification where the community can access details of the application and provide a written submission to the department. Submissions are reviewed and considered by the department to assist in deciding the outcome of the application.
What environmental monitoring activities does the department undertake in the Hopeland area?
The department undertakes extensive environmental monitoring to manage impacts to the site, including an onsite perimeter groundwater monitoring network to monitor any contamination spread.
The department continues to monitor the site and surrounding areas extensively, and the interpretation of monitoring data and trends is ongoing.
Since 2015, the department has completed extensive environmental investigations in the Hopeland area, including:
- Over 50 farm health assessments across the Hopeland region (including monitoring of soil, surface and groundwater, and air quality);
- Collection of over 2,000 soil gas samples from regional vapour wells;
- Installation of 15 new groundwater monitoring bores;
- Collection of over 120 groundwater samples onsite;
- Regular groundwater sampling across local landholder properties with the collection of over 120 regional groundwater samples;
- Gas testing from over 50 new and historical, gas and groundwater monitoring locations onsite; and
- Over 2,000 regional engagement activities including landholder property visits, community meetings and correspondence.
Can I have my say on this application?
Community members were able to provide feedback and have their say on Arrow Energy’s EA amendment application. Public submissions relating to the EA application closed on 15 February 2021.
The public notice process allows the public to have access to information about the application, and the opportunity to make submissions to the department. These submissions are considered during the assessment phase.
Although the opportunity to provide a submission has passed, you are still able to view the details of the application on the departmental website.