The Coal Seam Gas industry in Queensland is relatively new and is still emerging. However, it is a very large industry with a lot at stake and they need to access land – your land. The following are a few things as a landholder you should remember if you are approached by a Coal Seam Gas company representative.
1. Take time to consider - Coal Seam Gas companies invariably want things done urgently but rarely is there any actual need for it to be done urgently. Use your time wisely and do not feel obliged to agree immediately to what is proposed. Take time to think carefully about what is proposed, do your research, prepare and obtain professional assistance. Do not be pressured by deadlines imposed on you.
2. Do not underestimate the activity - Coal Seam Gas activity can be highly invasive and has the potential to seriously and adversely affect your enjoyment of your property, the business you conduct on it and its value. On a cursory assessment of the activities you might think there is nothing to worry about but a closer analysis might reveal what can really be done and what might be the ramifications. You should very carefully analyse what is proposed as most Coal Seam Gas companies will broadly and vaguely describe what they propose and that may come back to haunt you. Do not be afraid to ask questions. You are the one that needs to understand exactly what is proposed.
3. The importance of favourable terms – Do not be blinded by the money, although it is important. The money will soon be forgotten or spent yet the company will still be coming on to your land for months, years and likely decades to come. You should pay particular attention to the terms of the agreement as some of the terms can be particularly nasty. You should think about any special conditions you might like. Usually considerably better terms can be negotiated without any reduction in compensation and often if done skilfully more compensation might also be negotiated.
4. Do not rely on the gas company’s word - Do not assume everything you are told by the company liaison officer is true or accurate or that you are being told the full story. Critically analyse what you are told and check things out for yourself.
5. Professional advice is covered – The legal, valuation and accounting costs you necessarily and reasonably incur to negotiate a conduct and compensation agreement are a compensatable effect and you are therefore entitled to them. Conduct and Compensation Agreements are almost always deceptively complex despite what the Coal Seam Gas company representative may tell you. Such agreements almost always have significant consequences no matter what is proposed. Engage professional assistance to help you through the process. The Government even “strongly” recommends it.
6. Know your rights – As much as you may feel you don’t have any rights, the reality is that you do and some of these rights can be quite powerful. It may be a question of knowing how and when to use them but they exist. For example, Coal Seam Gas companies must:
a) Consult or use reasonable endeavours to consult owners and occupiers about access, the carrying out of the activities and compensation;
b) Carry out the activities in a way that does not unreasonably interfere with anyone else carrying out a lawful activity;
c) Not create a certain level of noise at your house; and
d) Comply with the Land Access Code.
For more information about any of these tips or to discuss your particular situation with one of our energy law experts, please contact us.
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