Pungesti's resistance to Chevron Gas Fracking, Romania

Energy company Chevron has been forced to suspend its plans to drill an exploration well for shale gas in the village of Pungesti, in eastern Romania, after the local community protested and blocked the company from entering the area for two months .


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In 2010, Chevron signed a deal with the Romanian government giving it leases for more than two million acres of land in Romania, which it says could hold enough shale gas to make Romania energy independent. In October 2013 Chevron wanted to begin its exploration in the village Pungesti, including around 357 buildings and 947 inhabitants (the commune includes eight villages: Armasoaia, Cursesti-Deal, CursestiVale, Hordila, Rapsa, Silistea, Stejaru, Toporasti). But the local community blocked the company's trucks from entering the area. The protests have had the backing of Orthodox priests and promised to be peaceful; villagers kneeled in the road chanting prayers and demands. [1]  On the week 14-20 October 2013, any of the village's inhabitants, most of whom were farmers, occupied the road leading into the fields earmarked for Chevron's construction site. They erected makeshift tents while those who had arrived by cart let their horses graze in the field. The police and gendarmerie increased their presence and created an exclusion zone for a while, preventing any other protesters from entering the area. When the trucks tried to move in, events turned violent: as the villagers formed a human chain across the road, the police moved in, pushing their way through the crowd. A man in his 70s was forced to the ground and trampled over and he was taken to hospital in critical condition. [1] For more than two months, the villagers were spending their nights in the tents and cooking on open fires. Even as the weather turned and temperatures dropped below zero, they looked set to stick the winter out.  On the 2 December 2013 the Romanian gendarmerie moved in to secure the way for Chevron's trucks. They occupied the village, blocking all access points with riot police vans and preventing anyone from leaving or entering for over 24 hours. Several villagers were detained and fined for the criminal offence of blocking a public road and many said that anyone leaving their homes was stopped for inquiring. With no journalists allowed entry at the time, details were vague, but local newspapers claim that between 30 and 40 people had been beaten by police and many villagers complained of brutality and injustice. Prime minister, Victor Ponta, responded to anti-fracking protests around the country by saying that "the actions of the gendarmes were 100% according to the law and I congratulate them for this." [2] Maria-Nicoleta Andreescu, executive director of the Helsinki Committee Association for the defence of human rights in Romania, said: "There are important signs that indicate that the gendarmes' actions were at least abusive if not illegal. It is very clear that by restricting the access of the press in the area the authorities did not allow the public to be informed."  In response to questions from the Guardian, Chevron said: "The company 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." [2]   On 7 December 2013 the Police of Vaslui delimited a "special safety area" in the localities Silistea and Pungesti, where Chevron held a perimeter of 20.000 square meter, and by an order of the head of Municipal Police of Vaslui in the localities Silistea and Pungesti, as well as on the sector of county road which relates the two villages, it was significantly supplemented the number of patrolling order forces, mainly gendarmes. [5] An activist in Bucharest, who acts as a liaison with people in Pungesti, said people in remote areas are now knowledgeable about the well-publicized problems like water pollution that opponents say fracking has caused in the United States and they are well-connected with a European network and international network.  Although the situation varies from country to country, opponents to fracking are scoring successes. David L. Goldwyn, a former senior energy official at the U.S. Department of State, who has run workshops on shale gas for regulators, said companies are finding themselves in a difficult situation: “While they are still negotiating for licenses, the NGOs spin up local opposition,” he said, referring to nongovernmental organizations. “Before they have boots on the ground, protests are underway.” In fact in countries like Germany and France, fracking is forbidden. Even in Britain, where the national government favors shale gas exploitation, it has been more than two years since a company fracked a shale gas well. In Eastern Europe, national governments like those in Romania, Poland and Ukraine have given their assent, but some people in local communities have yet to be won over. [4] Vlasa Mircia, the mayor of Pungesti, was one of the few locals in the Romanian village who openly welcomed exploratory shale gas drilling by Chevron and he was surprised about the protest. Some press even suspected there was Russian money behind fracking protests because Gazprom, a Russian state-controlled energy giant, has a clear interest to maintain countries dependent on Russian natural gas preventing the development of their own alternative supplies of energy. [9]. These allegations have been condemned by local communities as a way to deviate true understanding of the situation and legitimate concerns.  Chevron corporation on 20 February 2015 declared to finish its operations in Romania due to poor exploration results and prolonged protests by environmentalists. The withdrawal from the fracking project marked the end of the company’s shale gas exploration in Europe. [7] Chevron’s departure left Romanian campaigners in a state of shock, since Chevron had only drilled one well in one of its four licence areas, which was definitely not sufficient to assess the potential of shale gas in Romania. In fact, for the anti-fracking campaign in Romania, Chevron’s departure signifies just a minor victory, but definitely not winning the war against fracking. Moreover the campaigners are suspecting the fact that behind Chevron’s move, there will be more companies drilling undisturbed to identify shale gas potential, such as OMV Petrom, Halliburton, Hunt Oil, Panfora Oil, NIS Petrol, Romgaz [6].

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Basic Data
NamePungesti's resistance to Chevron Gas Fracking, Romania
CountryRomania
ProvinceVaslui County
SitePungesti
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Shale gas fracking
Oil and gas exploration and extraction
Specific CommoditiesCrude oil
Natural Gas
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsRomania has been an oil and natural gas producer since the late 19th century. One of the first refineries in the world started operating in 1856 near the town of Ploiesti. But today, like its neighbors, it depends heavily on imported Russian gas. In neighboring Bulgaria, the Parliament, under pressure from protesters, imposed a ban in January 2012 on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the technology used to extract gas from shale. The ban caused cancellation of Chevron’s Bulgarian exploration permit and Romanian environmentalists hoped to emulate the Bulgarian example.

The protests against fracking have been ongoing and Romanians were second only to the French in opposition to fracking for shale gas. Besides environmental concerns, people are angry that Romania would receive some of the smallest royalties in Europe, while the money goes directly to the central government, instead of the local community and they complain the lack of transparency and information on planned exploration programs. [3]

The Romanian fight against fracking was part of a bigger movement that included opposition to controversial gold mine project Rosia Montana.[8]
Type of PopulationRural
Start Date15/10/2013
End Date20/02/2015
Company Names or State EnterprisesChevron Corporation from United States of America
OMV Petrom S.A. from Romania
Halliburton from United States of America
Hunt Oil from United States of America
Panfora Oil & Gas from Romania
Romgaz from Romania
NIS Petrol from Serbia
Relevant government actorsn/a
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersFrackoff Romania coalition

SOS Rosia Montana coalition

Friends of the Earth Europe

Food and Water Watch Europe
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Pastoralists
Religious groups
Forms of MobilizationBlockades
Land occupation
Street protest/marches
erected makeshift tents
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Air pollution, Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Other Environmental impacts
OtherHuge use of water resources
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economic ImpactsPotential: Land dispossession
Outcome
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseStrengthening of participation
Violent targeting of activists
Project cancelled
Do you consider this as a success?Yes
Why? Explain briefly.Chevron on 20 February 2015 declared to finish its operations in Romania due to poor exploration results and prolonged protests by environmentalists, so the protest was a succes against Chevron company. But anyway it's not a success against fracking because the anti-fracking campaigners are suspecting that behind Chevron’s move, there will be more companies drilling undisturbed to identify shale gas potential [6].
Sources and Materials
References

Jura Cristian, CHEVRON VS. PUNGESTI, ROMANIA, September 2015
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Links

[6]Maria Olteanu, Chevron to leave Romania. Through the eyes of the anti-fracking campaigners, Frackoffromania, February 02, 2015
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[7]RT Question more, Chevron ditches last European fracking project in Romania, February 23, 2015
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[8]Adam Vaughan, Romania expected to reject gold mine following week of protest, The guardian, September 10, 2013
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[9]Andrew Higgins, Russian Money Suspected Behind Fracking Protests, The New York Times, November 30, 2014
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Kate Galbraith, Some in Europe Are Rethinking Opposition to Fracking, The New York Times, May 29, 2013
[click to view]

[1]Luke-Dale Harris and Vlad Ursulean, Chevron suspends shale gas exploration plan in Romanian village after protest, The Guardian, October 21, 2013.
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[2]Luke-Dale Harris and Vlad Ursulean, Police remove protesters from Chevron's fracking site in Romania, The Guardian, December 5,2013.
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[3]Palko Karasz ,Shale Gas Search Divides Romania, The New York Times, April 22, 2012
[click to view]

[4]Stanley Reed, Uphill Battle in Europe Over Fracking, The New York Times, December 11, 2013
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[5]Jura, Cristian, CHEVRON VS. PUNGESTI, ROMANIA, September 2015
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Other Documents

RT Question more, Chevron ditches last European fracking project in Romania, February 23, 2015 https://www.rt.com/news/234603-chevron-quits-fracking-romania/ US Chevron Quits Shale Gas Operations in Romania: Novinite http://bit.ly/1wdEawn is #ecocide pic.twitter.com/BQn6sVUNJ7 #fracking
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Luke-Dale Harris and Vlad Ursulean, Chevron suspends shale gas exploration plan in Romanian village after protest, The Guardian, October 21, 2013. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/oct/21/chevron-shale-gas-exploration-omanian-pungesti Activists protesting against Chevron's plan to drill for shale gas in Pungesti, Romania, on Saturday. Photograph: Bogdan Cristel/Reuters
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Luke-Dale Harris and Vlad Ursulean, Police remove protesters from Chevron's fracking site in Romania, The Guardian, December 5,2013. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/dec/05/protesters-chevron-shale-gas-fracking-romania A protester holds a 'Stop Chevron' flag at a makeshift camp near the village of Pungesti, Romania, where the US firm wants to drill for shale gas. Photograph: Daniel Mihailescu/AFP/Getty Images
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ContributorMyriam Bartolucci,EjAtlas internship researcher, [email protected]
Last update16/03/2016
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