Chevron Halts Romania Shale Gas Exploration
Chevron Corp. took a step back from development of shale gas Romania, announcing that it would suspend operations following the fifth day of protests by villagers from Pungesti at a development site in the northeast of the country.
Priests and school children were amongst those who formed a living chain in front of Chevron vehicles shouting “We want to live” and “We don’t want to die”, according to Vremea Noua website.
The local town Council of Pungesti decided that the issue of shale gas development in the village area should be put to a referendum.
“Today we have only discussed the opportunity to organize a referendum to consult the people on the topic of shale gas exploration and exploitation in the village area. If we will have the necessary 25% of signatures the referendum will be held on November 24th.” said the secretary of Pungesti, Constantin Chiriac.
The referendum would not have any legal impact on the drilling as approvals were given at higher levels.
In a statement, the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change said that public debates were held as part of procedures for issuing environmental permits “where the interested parties were informed with respect to the content and stages of the project.”
The multinational confirmed the suspension of it activities in a written statement.
"Chevron can today confirm it has suspended activities in Silistea, Pungesti commune, Vaslui County. Our priority is to conduct these activities in a safe and environmentally responsible manner consistent with the permits under which we operate. Chevron is committed to building constructive and positive relationships with the communities where we operate and we will continue our dialogue with the public, local communities and authorities on our projects. We have obtained the required permits and approvals to start activities in Silistea. Chevron will undertake only exploration activities with conventional technologies in block EV-2, under our existing permits."
George Epurescu from the Association “Romania Without Them” said “Pungesti held on and the support shown in Bucharest and Cluj-Napoca revealed the devastation that would have occurred. The opposition of the people is changing the governmental tactic and Chevron’s position.”
However, government representatives came out with strong statements in support of shale gas development.
Prime Minister Victor Ponta said: “I haven't changed my opinion at all. I think Romania must achieve energy independence and I think a strategic goal for Romania is to no longer import gas, but produce it ourselves."
As for concerns about the observance of environmental requirements, the PM said “this wasn't anyway about exploitation yet. For a start, these are five years of exploration, this has nothing to do with environmental issues.”
Speaking to Agerpress, Deputy Prime Minister, Liviu Dragnea commented: “I don’t know if the protesters know that in a few years we might not have enough gas to support the economy. Then they will protest for jobs, maybe. If we exploit shale gas, the price in Romania will be reduced, the industry will be competitive, new jobs will appear and the economy will develop”
PSD Parliamentary Deputy, Ana Birchall said that “the economy of Vaslui county needs these investments and jobs, maybe more than any other county in Romania.”
Chevron’s action came in advance of protests planned for Pungesti on Saturday, where protesters from around Romania to demonstrate against what organizers said was “governmental and presidential corruption and their complete surrender to corporations and to the dream of money, benefits and public offices that should guarantee their freedom and protection from justice.”