Chevron suspends shale gas explorations in Romania amid public protests

By bne IntelliNews October 18, 2013

Chevron has suspended the planned shale gas explorations at Pungesti in Romania after the inhabitants of the small village protested against the US company’s activities, Ziarul Financiar daily reported.

The company plans to restore constructive relationship with the local community, Chevron announced in a press release.

The inhabitants helped by environmental activists and people from the neighbourhood blocked the access of the drilling equipment on the site. They firmly oppose any activity related to the shale gas close to their village.

Chevron holds exploration rights over two large areas in Romania and received permits to start explorations in several sites. The first conventional, exploration well was about to be drilled in Pungesti – Vaslui county [eastern Romania].

Environmental protestors in the capital city Bucharest expanded their focus on the Rosia Montana gold mining project to include the shale gas topic as well.

The local administration in Pungesti has decided to summon a public referendum on banning shale gas exploration and exploitation on the territory of the village. The referendum will take place most likely on November 24. The local administration also adopted a decision with the same end – which is however unlikely to produce effects as long as the local administration has no right to issue such acts.

Pungesti is a small village with 3,800 inhabitants, out of whome 2,500 have voting rights.

The recent events in the small village, including the planned November 24 referendum, are however critical for the future development of shale gas exploration/exploitation in Romania. According to an EIA estimate, Romania holds reserves of 1,440bn cubic meters of shale gas – estimated at USD 550bn. Their exploitation would cover Romania’s current consumption for 100 years.

IntelliNews Comment: The environmental demonstrations in Bucharest in the past weeks have a major political dimension. Senior ruling party PSD has encouraged massively such protests when in opposition, in early 2012, as a means to overthrow the centre-right coalition. Once in office, the leftists of PM Victor Ponta toned down their rhetoric against Rosia Montana gold mining project and shale gas explorations. The street protests against the government are thus partly prompted by protestors’ frustration with the leftists’ change in rhetoric.

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