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    Romania: Fight Against Shale Gas Continues


Protests continue in Romania against Chevron's shale gas plans. A public debate Puieşti reached no conclusion and its Mayor does not agree with exploration or exploitation. A hunger strike in opposition to the shale plans has also commenced.

by: Gabriel Petrescu

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Romania: Fight Against Shale Gas Continues

A public debate over plans to build a shale gas exploration bore took place in Puieşti recently.  This is the second village in Vaslui County where Chevron wishes to explore. 250 people participated in the debate, which is necessary for obtaining an environmental permit in the area.

A representative from Romania’s National Agency for Environment Protection, Ciprian Soava, explained that only exploration works will be done “and for this we are here today to talk about this project…. This is not a political move, only technical debate.”

Locals and environmental activists alike showed their disagreement by shouting slogans.

Despite the assurances given by environmental representatives that the National Environment Guard will monitor activities at the bore, the debate ended after two hours without reaching a conclusion.

Puieşti village council unanimously decided that on February 9th 2014 a referendum would take place regarding shale gas exploration by Chevron. In response to local opposition, Puieşti Mayor Costel Moraru said: “From the point of view of the local council I have their entire support and the majority agrees to forbid shale gas exploration and exploitation in Puieşti area. We are talking about water, environment, land, plants and pregnant women. There are problems. From my point of view I do not agree with the exploration or exploitation.”  

Moraru has asked for better debate regarding the effects that exploitation might have on the environment and is not content with what has happened thus far.

George Epurescu of Romania Without Them explains the importance of a referendum in Puieşti: “The referendum would mean legal coverage in order to finally forbid hydraulic fracking and shale gas exploitation. It will be a battle with the Prefecture in order to have the referendum and the situation will be tense. Romanian peasants know when they are lied to and for them there is no way back.” 

“We have decided to commence a hunger strike to show disapproval of Chevron's activities. We are determined to continue until the company closes exploration activity in the area. Furthermore, we protest against the measure of the Police to restrict traffic on the Vaslui-Garceni county road, in Pungesti and Silistea villages”, said Alexandru Lupe, one of the activists participating in the hunger strike to Mediafax.

After a few days the number of protesters decreased to 13, but all are determined to continue their protest. They have erected a new resistance camp after the authorities demolished the first one.

Constantin Paslaru, leader of the Resistance Movement in Pungesti, explained the wishes of the protesters: “We want the riot police to withdraw, to lift the security area and any activity of Chevron in this area to be stopped as long as there is no court decision regarding the land. We want to observe the referendum and the request of the citizens who have twice the necessary number of signatures in order to have a referendum to remove the Mayor.”

Protesters soon were exhausted due to their age (between fifty and sixty) and weather conditions. The strike will be continued only by a small group of people, activists and a few villagers that can endure the rough weather conditions. The hunger strike will be resumed after the holiday is over, said the Pungesti Resistance Movement in a press release issued on Friday. 

Remus Cernea, independent Deputy, said in a press release: “For the health and life of those people on the hunger strike, the responsibility falls on the government who treated them abusively, ignoring the democratic procedures for information and dialog with the local communities mentioned in the law in cases of industrial exploitation with significant effect on the environment.”

Epurescu said: “The desperation forced people to an extreme form of protest, the hunger strike. The law and constitution were suspended and the riot police defend governmental crimes and thievery. A community condemned by the authorities but who wants to endure the hardest conditions. Their message is clear; they will not give in without a fight and are not afraid of anything.”

To show support for the people of Pungesti, Alexandru Popescu began a hunger strike in Bucharest in University square. He has been in Bucharest since December 21st protesting against shale gas exploration and exploitation and against the abuses of the riot police. The organization Green Romania has published the Declaration from Bucharest who requests in the last 3 points: “To forbid cyanide based mining in Romania and to include Rosia Montana on the UNESCO patrimony. To forbid hydraulic fracking in Romania for exploration and exploitation of shale gas and of other hydrocarbon from unconventional deposits. To cancel the leases and permits for shale gas exploration and exploitation.”

Simona Niculescu, human rights activist and expert in European law is continuing legal proceedings to cancel the 'special security zone' in Pungesti, so far without success. An unexpected effect of the security zone was that Christmas and New Year traditions were restricted. “The children could not have celebrations at the end of the year in Silistea. Winter traditions, important in Moldova, were forbidden. Each person is trying to keep them and to pass them to their children and these were forbidden because are considered public gatherings. The people cannot walk freely on the streets. If there are groups of 3 people they are immediately stopped, identified and filmed. These people did not do anything else, it is about the land,” said Paslaru. 

Gabriel Petrescu