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Unconventional gas exploration and production banned in Victoria, Australia


Description:

Of the three forms of unconventional gas, coal seam gas, shale gas and tight gas, Victoria has larger shale and tight gas reserves. After seeing the damaging experiences in Queensland and New South Wales in Australia, Quit Coal campaign saw the production of unconventional gas as a threat to the health and well being of local communities and a threat with regard to climate change.

There were strong examples of resistance to unconventional gas in New South Wales and the New South Wales campaigners shared their ‘Gasfield Free’ Community Strategy with Quit Coal. The Gasfield Free campaign aims for entire communities to declare themselves Gasfield Free and they will do whatever it takes to stop the unconventional gas industry including refusing to negotiate and non-violent direct action. Support is established through community meetings, explaining the science, listening to people’s views, door knocks, surveys and a declaration event alongside other forms of activism.

The Quit Coal collective started working with Poowong and Mirboo North, as the towns were covered in exploration licenses. Around 96 per cent of the people in both towns declared themselves Gasfield Free and the process started to go viral. Quit Coal then started supporting regional communities from their city base and formed a strong network of communities so all could campaign together. The activist Chloe said "In Australia, under Australian mining law, landowners own about the first six inches of their land and anything below belongs to the State. The State reserves the right to exploit those resources if it thinks it’s in the interest of the State. For instance if the State considers it in the economic interests of Victoria to extract gas, then the state has the right to do so and the companies have the right to facilitate gas extraction".

"Landowners see this as a basic injustice - they don’t have the right to say what happens on their property, to stop companies from establishing infrastructure that might impede the way they run their farming operation and that might start to affect their health and their underground water systems that they rely on for their business, drinking, and use in their homes.”

The campaign strengths relate to the communities coming together and practicing grassroots democratic processes, deciding what kind of development projects are acceptable in their area, and deciding to be really well informed about the implications.

Quit Coal has been advocating for a permanent ban on unconventional gas in Victoria, which links to the larger issue of Australia's energy future, the sources used, the prices paid and how the industry is constructed. Unconventional gas in Australia is seen as an opportunity for export, which links gas prices to the international market, potentially causing dramatic prices rices and affecting low income households. Rather, Quit Coal sees renewable energy and decentralisation of our energy systems as the solution for keeping energy prices low for low income households.  [This description is based on an interview with Chloe Aldenhoven, Quit Coal Campaigner, with Friends of the Earth, at the Sustainable Living Festival, Saturday 13 February, 2016, Melbourne, Australia. Quit Coal, a small, city-based collective in Friends of the Earth, has a vision to stop fossil fuel expansion in Victoria. After successfully campaigning to stop a new coal-fired power station in the late 2000s, the collective became aware of the high number of exploration licences in Gippsland and Western Victoria for the exploration of unconventional gas. ]  Post interview note: 30 August 2016 - The Victorian Government announced that it would introduce legislation to permanently ban the exploration and development of unconventional gas in Victoria, and extend the current moratorium on exploration for onshore conventional gas until 30 June 2020, in response to community opposition and advocacy by ENGOs. To date (March 2017), 75 Victorian communities declared themselves gasfield free. The history of the campaign is available at the Friends of the Earth website: http://www.melbournefoe.org.au/coal_and_gas

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Unconventional gas exploration and production banned in Victoria, Australia
Country:Australia
State or province:Victoria
(municipality or city/town)Gippsland
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict: 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict: 2nd level :Oil and gas exploration and extraction
Specific commodities:Natural Gas

Project Details and Actors

Project details:

Geoscience Australia (GA) estimates that Victoria’s Gippsland Basin contains 19 trillion cubic feet and Otway Basin 8 trillion cubic feet of shale and tight gas reserves. GA explains on its website that the figures derive from a “desktop assessment, using only publicly available data as inputs and following a probabilistic volumetric methodology. Results of the assessment are quoted at confidence levels of 10 per cent, 50 per cent, 90 per cent (P10, P50, P90), and mean”. http://www.ga.gov.au/aera/gas

Project area:4,155,600
Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:255,718 Population of Gippsland in the 2011 Census
Start of the conflict:23/09/2011
End of the conflict:30/08/2016
Company names or state enterprises:Mantle Mining Corporation from Australia - Mantle Mining is involved through exploration licences
ExxonMobil Corporation (Exxon) from United States of America
Lakes Oil from Australia - Lakes Oil is involved through exploration licences
Relevant government actors:Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (http://economicdevelopment.vic.gov.au/)

Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:- Quit Coal, https://quitcoal.org.au/

- Lock the Gate, http://www.lockthegate.org.au/

- Coal and CSG Free Mirboo North, https://www.facebook.com/CoalAndCsgFreeMirbooNorth/

- CSG Free Poowong, https://www.facebook.com/CsgFreePoowong/

- Doctors for Environment Australia, https://www.dea.org.au/

- Environmental Justice Australia, https://envirojustice.org.au/

Conflict and Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Pastoralists
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Religious groups
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Blockades
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches

Impacts of the project

Environmental ImpactsPotential: Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Other Environmental impacts
Other Environmental impactsSeismic activity
Health ImpactsPotential: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Loss of livelihood, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Other socio-economic impacts
Other socio-economic impactsPotential to divide communities

Outcome

Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:New legislation
Moratoria
Development of alternatives:Permanent ban on unconventional gas exploration and production

Transition to renewable energy

Distributed energy systems
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:The Victorian Government announced that it would introduce legislation to permanently ban the exploration and development of unconventional gas in Victoria, and extend the current moratorium on exploration for onshore conventional gas until 30 June 2020.

As stated by Chloe Aldenhoven: “Victoria will become a national leader – the first state to implement a permanent ban on unconventional gas.

It is also one of the most robust policies in the world. Less than 15 international jurisdictions, state or national, have implemented legislation which severely restricts unconventional gas extraction. Even fewer have enacted permanent bans inclusive of all onshore gas exploration and extraction activities.

The Victorian ban is more permanent than Germany’s or Scotland’s, and more allencompassing than the bans in New York, Vermont or France.

However this campaign was not only historic and world-leading in its outcomes. It was also historic for its use of grassroots democracy, the coalitions it developed between conservative farming communities, environmentalists and everyone in between, and the sheer scale of the community movement.” (Aldenhoven 2016, p.10)

Sources and Materials

Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Native Title Act 1993 (Commonwealth)

Planning and Environment Act 1987 (Victoria)

Environment Effects Act 1978 (Victoria)

Mineral Resources Sustainable Development Act 1990 (MRSD Act): Licensing for exploration and production of CSG (Victoria)

Mineral Resources Development Regulations 2002 (Victoria)

Petroleum Act 1998: Licensing for the exploration and production of shale and tight gas (Victoria)

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984 (Commonwealth)

Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Commonwealth)

Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 (Victoria)

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Geoscience Australia, “Gas”, [online], Geoscience Australia website, http://www.ga.gov.au/aera/gas, [28 February 2017]
http://www.ga.gov.au/aera/gas

Friends of the Earth, (2014), “The campaign against new coal and gas in Victoria. The story so far.”, [online], Friends of the Earth Melbourne website, http://www.melbournefoe.org.au/coal_and_gas, [accessed 28 February 2017]
http://www.melbournefoe.org.au/coal_and_gas

Parliament of Victoria, “Research Papers”, [online], Parliament of Victoria website, http://www.parliament.vic.gov.au/publications/research-papers/download/36-research-papers/13717-unconventional-gas-paper-final, [accessed 28 February 2017]
http://www.parliament.vic.gov.au/publications/research-papers/download/36-research-papers/13717-unconventional-gas-paper-final

Earth Resources, (2016), “Minerals”, [online], Earth Resources website, http://earthresources.vic.gov.au/earth-resources-regulation/licensing-and-approvals/minerals, [accessed 28 February 2017]
http://earthresources.vic.gov.au/earth-resources-regulation/licensing-and-approvals/minerals

Aldenhoven, C., (2016), “Victory!: Victoria's unconventional gas ban”, [online], Chain Reaction, No. 128, Nov 2016: pp.10-13. Availability: ISSN: 0312-1372 [accessed 28 February 2017]
http://search.informit.com.au.ezproxy.lib.rmit.edu.au/documentSummary;dn=552037483692288;res=IELHSS

Other documents

Source: Australia's gas resources past

production and remaining

resources (PJ), http://www.ga.gov.au/aera/gas
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/Australia_gas.jpg

Meta information

Contributor:Australian Environmental Justice Project, Lisa de Kleyn, [email protected]
Last update14/03/2017

Images

 

 

Source: Australia's gas resources past production and remaining resources (PJ), http://www.ga.gov.au/aera/gas