Chevron files suit against Polish anti-shale gas protesters

A Chevron gas station sign is pictured at one of their retain gas stations in Cardiff, California October 9, 2013. REUTERS/Mike Blake

WARSAW (Reuters) - U.S. energy major Chevron CVX.N said 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 gas.

Local people occupied the site near the village of Zurawlow, about 260 km (160 miles) southeast of the Polish capital, when contractors started trying to erect a fence.

Chevron said it filed the action on the grounds that the protesters were violating its lawful right of access to the site, one of four shale gas exploration concessions the company has in Poland.

“While we respect the rights of individuals to express their opinions, it should be done within the law. We believe that the views expressed by a small group of people do not reflect views of the majority of residents”, in the region around the site, Chevron said in a statement.

The protesters say Chevron has not adequately consulted with local residents and that its drilling will damage the environment.

The oil major has responded that it is committed to operating in a safe and responsible way and is bringing benefits to communities where it operates.

In neighboring Romania, Chevron had to suspend work at another planned shale gas exploration well after local people blocked the site.

Reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Jane Baird