Last updated 14 September 2020
The Petroleum and Gas (Production and Safety) Act 2004 (Qld) (Petroleum and Gas Act) regulates the tenure, royalty and safety aspects of petroleum exploration, extraction and pipelines. The Petroleum Act 1923 (Qld) continues to regulate some petroleum licences granted prior to 1993 due to native title issues.
Petroleum is defined to include any hydrocarbon in gas or liquid form, including products extracted from solids such as coal or oil shale. Therefore, in addition to liquid petroleum products such as oil, this regime regulates gas production, including coal seam gas (CSG).
There are two main tenements that provide rights to access land to explore for petroleum and to produce petroleum. An authority to prospect (ATP) provides rights of access to land for the purpose of exploring for petroleum such as by exploratory drilling. A petroleum lease is required for production of petroleum.
As for mining, the environmental protection aspects of petroleum extraction are regulated under the Environmental Protection Act 1994 (Qld) (Environmental Protection Act). Exploration and production of petroleum requires an environmental authority under ch 5 of the Environmental Protection Act. There are three different types of application: standard application, variation application and site-specific application (see Standard, variation and site-specific applications). The eligibility criteria and standard conditions are available online at the Department of Environment and Science.
Making submissions on a petroleum application
There are no submission rights regarding the grant of an authority to prospect or a petroleum lease under the Petroleum and Gas Act.
Opportunities for landholders and members of the public to make submissions are generally limited to site-specific applications for an environmental authority under the Environmental Protection Act. There are few rights to make submissions for standard applications. Submissions can be made during any environmental impact statement (EIS) process when the draft terms of reference and EIS are publicly notified.
Applications for site-specific applications for environmental authorities for a petroleum lease and any associated EIS can be publicly notified in a variety of ways, including:
- advertising in a newspaper circulating generally in the area where the activity is proposed to be carried out for a specified period
- advertising on the Coordinator-General’s website
- advertising on the Department of Environment and Science website
- providing access to relevant documents on a public website created by the applicant.
A submission on the grant of an environmental authority for a petroleum activity must:
- be in writing or made electronically
- state the name and address of each submitter
- be made to the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection
- be received on or before the last day of the submission period
- state the grounds of the submission and the facts and circumstances relied on in support of the grounds (s 161 Environmental Protection Act).
If an EIS for the mine was prepared under ch 3 of the Environmental Protection Act, a properly made submission about the EIS is taken to be a properly made submission about the application (s 150 Environmental Protection Act).
Review and appeals
Under the Environmental Protection Act, a submitter on an application for a site-specific application for an environmental authority for a petroleum activity has a right to seek internal review by the department and appeal to the Land Court as a dissatisfied person if the application is approved (s 520(2)).
An internal review must be made in the approved form within 10 business days after notice of the original decision is given (s 521).
A submitter can also appeal to the Land Court (s 524).
The appeal must be made within 22 business days after the appellant receives notice of the decision, unless the court allows a longer time (s 525).
The appeal is by way of rehearing, unaffected by the review decision (s 527) and the appellant may call expert evidence to support the appeal.
Costs may be awarded if the appeal is unsuccessful.
Entry requirements and compensation
Before entering private land to carry out authorised activities, resource companies must comply with land access laws and follow set procedures to gain access.
Land access and conduct requirements are set out in the:
- Mineral and Energy Resources (Common Provisions) Act 2014 (Qld)
- Mineral and Energy Resources (Common Provisions) Regulation 2016 (Qld)
- Land Access Code
- A Guide to Land Access in Queensland published by the former Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy (now Department of Resources).
The requirements vary depending on whether the activities being carried out are preliminary activities that have no impact or only a minor impact on the land, or more advanced activities. They can also vary depending on whether the landholder is the owner or occupier of the land.
There are also special requirements that restrict access around certain buildings, structures and areas.
Access for resource activities, including CSG, are classified in three phases:
- preliminary activities such as walking the area, taking soil samples or survey pegging (with minimal impact on landholders)
- advanced activities such as infrastructure construction (with longer-term and/or extensive impact on landholders)
- decommissioning activities such as rehabilitation of wells or pipelines.
An onshore gas operator accessing private land to undertake ‘advanced activities’, must first notify the landowner and enter into one of the following land access agreements with them:
- a conduct and compensation agreement (CCA). This relates to the proposed advanced activities, conduct for the proposed activities to be undertaken and, where there is impact on the landholder, compensation arrangements for those activities
- deferral agreement. This allows for a CCA to be entered into at a later date and after the resource company has accessed the land to undertake advanced activities
- opt-out agreement. This provides a legally binding agreement between a landholder and a resource company where the landholder is agreeing to opt out of negotiating a CCA or a deferral agreement.
As at 31 March 2019, a total of 4746 CCAs had been negotiated between landholders and gas companies.
Many landholders have also negotiated in-kind outcomes such as new fencing, roads, grids, sale of gravel and water, and have also gained access to treated CSG water for agriculture in some areas.
The Queensland Gasfields Commission has further explanations of access and compensation laws and polices. The commission publishes a comprehensive guide to access and conduct requirements in The Gas Guide.
Further guidance on making submissions and appealing against a petroleum activity is provided in the Environmental Defenders Office’s handbook Mining and Coal Seam Gas Law in Queensland: A guide for the community.