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