Queensland has no clear laws protecting farmers if coal seam gas extraction causes their land to sink, a watchdog has found.
State authorities have found CSG extraction is causing subsidence on the Condamine floodplain, west of Toowoomba.
The GasFields Commission says local crop farmers are concerned because the slope of their land is critical for irrigation.
The watchdog says state and federal laws are either inadequate or not being enforced to deal with the problem.
"There is no clear jurisdictional responsibility to manage the potential impacts of CSG-induced subsidence," the GasFields Commission's discussion paper said on Friday.
"There are existing protections under the current regulatory framework, including for economic, environmental and land use impacts, however these remain generally untested."
The watchdog probed one federal law and four state laws, which it said don't adequately deal with managing the impacts of CSG-induced subsidence.
The GasFields Commission warned the consequences and economic impact of subsidence on farms remain unclear.
Existing laws and regulations don't explain how farmers and gas companies assess CSG sinkage and resolve disputes about impacts either.
The commission has called for public submissions on a new regulatory framework for subsidence caused by CSG.
It said the new laws should ensure "appropriate protection" for landholders impacted by land sinking.
State government agencies should have clear roles and responsibilities to assess, monitor and manage subsidence in high-value cropping areas, the watchdog said.
The GasFields Commission said the government should take a risk-based approach by independently and scientifically assessing the likelihood and consequences of CSG-induced sinkage.
Farmers should also have a clear way to resolve disputes about subsidence impacts with gas companies, which should bear the costs, with the Land Court only used a last resort.
"The outcomes being sought by the Commission are to ensure that there are appropriate protections for landholders materially impacted by CSG-induced subsidence," the regulator said.
"And that there is a clear process available to landholders to gain greater certainty around regulatory obligations for the onshore gas industry."
The GasFields Commission has called for public submissions on the adequacy of existing regulations to manage the potential impacts of CSG-induced subsidence on farmland.
Australian Associated Press
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