Chevron halts Romania shale work after protest

Sat Dec 7, 2013 9:54am EST

* Residents oppose shale exploration

* Protesters and riot police turn out in equal numbers

* Romania holds estimated 51 trln cubic feet of shale gas

By Bogdan Cristel

PUNGESTI, Romania, Dec 7 (Reuters) - U.S. oil major Chevron halted exploration works for shale gas in eastern Romania for the second time in two months on Saturday after anti-fracking protesters broke through wire mesh fences around the site.

Thousands of people have rallied across Romania in recent months to protest against government support for shale gas exploration and separate plans to set up Europe's largest open cast gold mine in a small Carpathian town.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates Romania could potentially hold 51 trillion cubic feet of shale gas, which would cover domestic demand for more than a century.

Chevron won approval to drill exploratory wells in the small town of Pungesti in the impoverished county of Vaslui in October but had to halt work soon after when residents blocked access to the site. It resumed work on Dec. 2.

On Saturday, about 300 riot police were deployed in Pungesti, 340 km (210 miles) northeast of capital Bucharest, to try to prevent an equal number of protesters, mostly local residents, from entering the Chevron site. Some broke through into the site, however.

The activists chanted "Stop Chevron" and held banners saying "No drilling allowed here". Dozens were detained by police.

Chevron said some equipment had been damaged on the site. "Chevron can today confirm it has suspended activities ... as a result of unsafe conditions generated by unlawful and violent protester activities," it said in a statement emailed to Reuters.

"Our priority is to conduct our activities in a safe and environmentally responsible manner consistent with the permits under which we operate, however this was not possible today."

FRACKING DIVIDE

Shale gas faces opposition due to concerns around hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the process of injecting water and chemicals at high pressure into underground rock formations to push out gas.

Critics, including the Pungesti protesters, say it can pollute water supplies and trigger small earthquakes. Advocates say it has a strong safety record and point to countries like the United States, where extensive fracking has driven down energy prices.

Chevron, which also has rights to explore three licence blocks near the Black Sea, does not have plans to use fracking under its five-year exploration programme. It says is abiding by all safety regulations.

It said last month it had filed a civil lawsuit against protesters in Poland who have prevented it from reaching a site where it plans to explore for shale. It said the action was filed on the grounds that protesters were violating its lawful right of access to the site - one of four shale gas exploration concessions the company has in Poland.

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Comments (8)
Dani.Dulfu wrote:
the 300 riot police agents were deployed to act against unarmed villagers, who are against fracking. These villagers had already used their constitutional right to referendum and voted against shale gas exploration in the area. However, the Romanian government and local authorities acted against their will and allowed a company (incidentally called Chevron) to drill in their village.

Riot police officers went on private property and illegally detained villagers, acted during the night so that the local population were unable to use video evidence against the police officers and their abusive use of force.

Meanwhile, the Romanian press is deaf to these accusations and to the sufferings of their fellow citizens, while the politicians voted by the population to represent them ignore everybody.

Now, I ask this question: is this a normal situation for a member of the European Union? A modern democracy? I think not. We have every right to be outraged by this situation!

Dec 07, 2013 2:23pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Kate417 wrote:
SOLIDARITY

Dec 07, 2013 2:41pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Voicu wrote:
Fraking doesn’t divide. We are all against it !!! We ask for a referendum and we don’t get it because of that. Romanians finally understand their faith is in their hands. They will stop Chevron and the bribed politicians that advocate fraking.

Dec 07, 2013 11:06pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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