by Raluca Besliu
Hundreds of villagers from the Romanian village of Pungesti expressed their vehement opposition to Chevron’s intention to start exploring for shale gas in a nearby field. Sitting down on the grown and chanting “Thieves!,” in reference to both the US company and the Romanian government, they formed a human chain protecting the area, as trucks were arriving with Chevron’s exploration equipment. This is the third day of protests for the villagers. Pungesti’s local authorities had initially opposed hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking. The local council even adopted a decision to ban the exploration and exploitation of shale gas as well the approval of any urbanism certificates and construction authorizations regarding the establishment of extraction wells on the village’s territory. This decision was self-revoked in June 2013.
In July 2013, Chevron obtained permits to drill in three villages in this part of Romania, after, in May 2013, it had gotten exploration permits for several areas close to Romania’s Black Sea coast. The company announced its intention to create its first test wells during the second half of this year.
By starting an extraction well in Pungesti and anywhere else in Romania, Chevron would embark on a questionable venture, given that the Eastern European country cur¬rently lacks a differentiation between conventional and non-conventional resources and has no procedures to evaluate the impact that shale gas exploration and exploitation can have on the environment. On the Romanian Ministry of the Environment, shale gas’ environmental impacts are featured as still under evaluation. According to existing Romanian legislation, an environmental license can only be released after the environmental assessment impact, alongside all the other materials, is submitted, reviewed and approved. In the case of a project, where the evaluation procedures have yet to be developed, Chevron cannot simply be initiating exploration and hoping for the best. That goes against a fundamental European principle stated in the Lisbon Treaty: the precautionary principle.
Several European countries have already embraced a precautionary approach. France was the first European country to ban fracking in 2011. Most recently, France’s Constitutional Court upheld a ban on fracking, while France reaffirmed its intention to focus on developing renewable energy instead. In 2012, Bulgaria adopted a moratorium on fracking and immediately revoked an exploration permit previously granted to Chevron, invoking insufficient proof of theenvironmental safety of the practice.
All the story here.