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14 February | | | | | | |

Australia: State of Victoria one step away from banning fracking for good

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All is set for the Victoria Upper House to pass a bill to ban fracking (hydraulic fracturing) in fifteen days. The bill was passed in the Lower House on February 8th with the approval of the parties with most representatives.

This was a landmark achievement. Victoria, located in the South of Australia, with Melbourne as its capital city, is slated to become the first state in the country to ban fracking. The ban includes the inability to explore and exploit unconventional gas in general, while it establishes a moratorium to onshore conventional gas exploration until 2020.

"This is basically a democratic issue. We have an absolutely amazing social movement that erupted in Victoria and Australia around this issue. Communities have taken back the jurisdiction", said Chloe Aldenhoven, coal and gas community campaigner for FoE Australia, in an interview with Real World Radio. Aldenhoven worked at grassroots level for the proposal to become a reality.

“They have run this amazing grassroots democratic process where every single person in the community had a say on whether or not they wanted fracking and gas fields in their community, and every single time the community came back with a 95 plus per cent of people saying they didn’t want it to happen here", added Chloe. The struggle took around five years.

Fracking is a technique that allows to extract unconventional hydrocarbon, such as shale gas, found trapped deep into rocks. After drilling to reach the rock, massive amounts of high-pressure water are injected into it, with chemical additives and sand to fracture the rock and release the gas.

The Friends of the Earth Australia activist believes the alliance between environmental sectors and the most conservative rural communities was key, since they left aside their pride and the issues where they perhaps don´t have anything in common, to join in the struggle against fracking and the onshore exploration of conventional gas. They were united by the defense of the quality of water, air and agriculture, a key driver of Victoria´s economy, largely based on food export.

In this way, the political sector also argued these reasons to support the initiative, launched by the Labor Party of Victoria, but also supported by the conservative opposition in the Lower House. The project is expected to be passed without modifications by the Upper House and to come into effect shortly.

The struggle by communities against fracking and conventional gas "really turned into a campaign on whether or not communities have control over development in their area", said Chloe. "And as an absolutely basic democratic issue the government could not go against the will of these communities in favour of the fossil fuel industry", she concluded.

Imagen: Friends of the Earth Australia

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