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Zurawlow shalegas field and Chevron withdrawal, Poland


Chevron opened several exploratory wells in Poland, Romania, signing accords with Ucraina and Lituania as well.  [2]  The company on 30 January 2015, announced it was abandoning exploratory project of shale gas in Poland, because its earnings for the fourth quarter of 2014 fell nearly 30 percent compared with a year earlier, to $3.5 billion. The company blamed lower oil prices for much of the damage.

 [1]   The Chevron's retirement reflected the need of oil companies to cut cost after the 60 percent fall in prices of oil in 2015. But in Europe in general, the history of shale gas failed: in fact the efforts of companies were frustrated by the difficult geology and a strong public opposition for environmental reasons. [2]  The protest of local community were much organised and in particolary in Poland the villagers of Zurawlow, a small village outside Zamosc, in the Gmina Grabowiec district, was famous blocking Chevron's intention to start drilling in 2013.

Since the implementation of Poland’s geological and mining law, the state is allowed to seize land sitting on shale gas deposits for industrial purposes. The law secures more power for companies, while leaving Polish citizens defenseless. Chevron in fact had obtained governmental approval for exploring for shale gas in Zurawlow in 2012.

The locals farmers to keep the energy company out filed complaints with the authorities and they sent a letter to the Polish prime minister and the environment minister, demanding governmental protection for the citizens and highlighting the air, land and water pollution and impact on their health caused by shale gas extraction.

They had experienced some of the potential dangers of fracking during Chevron’s earlier seismic tests, when the explosives used led to water pollution, making it undrinkable.  [7]  Moreover they have been well informed of the many environmental issue that result from this drilling practice from the movie “Drill Baby Drill” by Lech Kowalski. [8].

The beginnings of the conflict between the inhabitants of the Grabowiec commune and the Chevron concern should be sought when it rented Geofizyka Toruń company to conduct a seismic survey in Rogów, near Zurawlow. After research in 2011, local residents found cases of cracks in buildings and water pollution. The strong reluctance of the inhabitants forced the concern to move to another area - to the neighboring Zurawlow. [10]. Around November 2011, it also became known that one of the Zurawlow residents had signed a lease agreement with Chevron. Concerned members of one family from Zurawlow and Rogow, who were the first to look for information about shale gas, soon decided to interest this problem also your friends. [9]. 

In an attempt to gain the support of the local community, on January 19, 2012, Chevron representatives decided to meet the residents of Zurawlow at the local fire station. After five minutes, however, the concern people left the room, complaining about the presence of the media, experts, and activists (e.g. from the Center for Sustainable Development) who came to support the residents from a skeptical position about the investment. Residents' decision to invite guests to a closed meeting with Chevron was therefore due to their feeling that they did not have the knowledge to be able to reliably assess and relate to the information that was to be provided to them during the meeting. They concluded that the company acted as if they were afraid open conversations and he was not as keen on transparency as one might suggest from the company's official messages and narratives. Since then, "We knew Chevron was incredible". On March 13, 2012, heavy equipment, transported by the Polish company Poszukiwania Nafty i Gazu Nafta, subcontractor of the American concern, entered the Grabowiec commune. The quick mobilization of the inhabitants made it possible to block this transport. [9].

On 2 June 2013, Chevron came with security guards and took possession of a parcel on a concession land to install a fence and to start drilling on the site. The locals immediately on 3 June 2013 rushed to the site to block Chevron from bringing any more equipment on the land. The farmers launched a protest movement called “Occupy Chevron” and for 400 days, farmers and their families from Zurawlow and four nearby villages, blockaded a proposed Chevron shale drilling site with tractors and agricultural machinery [5]. The mobilization act from Zurawlow was described in the media as "one of the longest stationary protests in Poland in recent decades". [12]. The president of the Strefa Zieleni Foundation called the action "the longest-lasting local protest against shale gas exploration drilling in the world". [11].

A villager said “Roads were damaged and destroyed when seismic tests were done with heavy machinery,” “The fact is that people’s houses had cracks in their walls afterwards. When Chevron tried to start up with their machinery, I was one who was involved. We blocked the entry roads.”  [3]  They were supported by urban greens, anarchists etc., and they set up a protest camp completed with everything and occupied the site around the clock.[3]  An other local villager said “We don’t need shale gas,” “It’s one big scam. Nobody informed us about what’s happening. The ex-mayor was useless. He just promised work for everyone but there was nothing. We are not going to work on the well. The people who have agro-tourism businesses know that it’s not beneficial as the environment will be destroyed and people won’t come here anymore.” [3]  

Many activists were confronting a criminal lawsuit filed by Chevron, and many were filmed by mystery cameramen which were used in subsequent court cases in Hrubieszow. Out of several collective court cases, one ended with an acquittal (as of August 11, 2014). It was a trial of 12 people for refusal to provide identity to an officer and an unfounded call to the police. There is a pending case of 13 farmers for infringement of possession and 34 farmers for the use of building materials (i.e. loading a removable fence mesh back onto the company's car on the first day of the blockade). Two people were fined with a legally binding decision for "using a power generator" (moving the device about 5 meters from the road). The penalties requested and announced were not high, but very bothersome. One family even had 11 cases. The accused complained that they had to appear in court during the harvest season. [10] [11].

The incident of violence against the protesting woman should also be mentioned. The wife of the village administrator Żurawlow filed a lawsuit to be hit by the car of a security company rented by Chevron, as a result of which she was hospitalized and was on leave for six months. The court ordered the driver - a man from a neighboring village - to pay a fine. [10].

Protesters claimed to be intimidated and slandered. "We will not be intimidated - they assure. - Although all the services from the fire brigade to the Department of Health were sent to us. The police monitor us systematically. Something strange is happening with our phones, there are distortions, echoes in the handset, interrupted conversations. At the beginning of the protest, we also received letters and phone calls from a large law firm representing the concern. Her lawyers tried to explain to us that we don't seem to understand what we're doing. Fiscal controls have also started recently, e.g. five years back, especially of larger farmers involved in the protest." [10].  Zukowski, the ex- mayor, suggested that village protesters were being manipulated by Kremlin’s intentions because gas and oil are a useful tool for Russia to get involved in other countries’ energy security.

The protest of Żurawlów residents met with the interest of Western media and activists from all over the world. Support from the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Romania, Germany, France, Denmark, Spain, England, Ecuador, the USA, South Africa, Argentina and Australia came to the place of the blockade. Delegations left national flags on the blockade as a sign of their support for the protesting farmers. [9]. A support picket was held in front of the Polish Embassy in Vilnius, demonstrators also appeared on the streets of the Romanian capital. A strong voice of support came from France, where organized movements to combat hydraulic fracturing were instrumental in banning hydraulic fracturing in the country on the Seine. [12].

Two local priests supported the efforts of the inhabitants; one Sunday the priest even came to the protest point, where a field mass was then held. Activists from Warsaw also came to the rescue. They replaced the inhabitants in the blockade during the day, while the latter worked in agricultural fields. [12].

Political parties - the ruling party (PO / PSL coalition) or the largest opposition parties (including PIS) - were practically not involved in the protest. The exception was the Green Party, which in a letter of support for the inhabitants of Żurawlów wrote: "While defending your village, you fight for the right to a clean environment, to maintain a way of life based on agriculture, as well as for democratic standards and transparent law ...". The remaining political groups - for most of the protest period - did not respond to the letters of the protesters. They knew the situation because the inhabitants presented it during one session of the parliamentary committee on agriculture and the environment and in the European Parliament. [9] [10].

Political support at local and regional level came after months of protests. On February 17, 2014, farmers and supporting agricultural organizations (Zamojskie Towarzystwo Rolne - Agricultural Society in Zamość; Związek Pracodawców - Dzierżawców i Właścicieli Rolnych - Association of Employers - Land Leases; Lubelska Izba Rolna - Lublin Chamber of Agriculture) met with the Lublin voivode. The voivode received the resolution of the Grabowiec Commune Council of February 7 this year. The council is "opposed to Chevron's activity in exploring and exploiting shale gas in the municipality." Out of 14 councilors present, 10 voted for the resolution, two were against and two abstained. The councilors also obliged the head of the commune to inform about all matters relating to shale on an ongoing basis. [10].

The farmers in Zurawlow were successful in stopping Chevron because of permit issues. For example in a support letter, José Bové European Deputy, expressed to them all his support becuse the extraction of shale gas carries so much serious risks and he confirmed Chevron had an authorization for seismic tests only and not to fence [5].  Infact pursuant to the information from the Minister of Environment on May 29th 2013, regarding the Grabowiec concession Chevron can conduct 3D seismic tests only. The company has not received an approval from local government for any other activities. [5] The only argument Chevron employees use is that the leased field is company’s private property. But the lease that Chevron has made is for public purpose: to search and to recognise of hydrocarbons in the area. According to the Geological and Mining Law that means all the activities of the mining companies on the concession area should be conducted with the knowledge and acceptance of the society.

It is said that the "Green Żurawlów" Association was founded on the wave of protests on March 23, 2014. It was officially registered at the end of the blockade, on June 27, 2014. In the same year, the organization took part in public consultations on the government's draft special hydrocarbon law. [9].

[5]  Poland has a long history of occupation by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union at the beginning of World War II.

By the late 1980s Solidarity, the transition from a communist state to the capitalist system and parliamentary democracy, caused the creation of the modern Polish state.  So this historical process influenced the recent polish aptitude to say "No more Occupying Poland”. Zurawlow’s example of opposition to fracking and their tactics of resistance is a positive and inspiriting example for other countries, who want to save their environment and their health. [7]

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Zurawlow shalegas field and Chevron withdrawal, Poland
State or province:District of Gmina Grabowiec, within Zamość County, Lublin Voivodeship, in eastern Poland.
Location of conflict:Zurawlow
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
Specific commodities:Crude oil
Natural Gas

Project Details and Actors

Project details

In 2011, the US energy information administration announced that there could be as much as 5.3 trillion cubic meters - or 300 years worth- of gas that could be fracked in the area around Zurawlow, although subsequent studies have shown that the reserves are much lower than that and could only last for 26-70 years.[7]

On March 2012, a study by the Polish Geological Institute, estimated that recoverable shale gas volumes under the Poland at between 346bn and 768bn cubic metres; the third biggest in Europe and enough to provide the country’s gas needs for between 35 and 65 years. [3] 

Level of Investment for the conflictive projectUnknown
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:Unknown
Start of the conflict:01/11/2011
End of the conflict:30/01/2015
Company names or state enterprises:„PRAKTIBUD” – Adam Gwizdała from Poland - subcontractor (construction works)
POSZUKIWANIA NAFTY I GAZU NAFTA S A from Poland - subcontractor (drilling activities)
Chevron Polska Energy Resources Sp. z o.o. from United States of America - main investor
Relevant government actors:The Minister of Environment of Poland; The Polish prime minister
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:- Occupy Chevron (Poland): : [email protected];
- Stowarzyszenie Ekologiczne EKO-UNIA (Ecological Association EKO-UNIA):
- Partia Zieloni (The Greens):
- Centrum Zrównoważonego Rozwoju (Center for Sustainable Development):
- Stowarzyszenie "Zielony Żurawlów" (Green Zurawlow Association):
- committees and associations fighting against shale gas, shale oil and coal gas (France):
[list here
- Farmer Protest: : [email protected];

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Land occupation
Official complaint letters and petitions
Street protest/marches
Villagers blockaded a proposed Chevron shale drilling site with tractors and agricultural machinery, for 400 days[4]. 


Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Soil contamination, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Air pollution
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Malnutrition, Occupational disease and accidents
Other Health impacts [7]Greens EFA
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Land dispossession


Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Criminalization of activists
Strengthening of participation
Violent targeting of activists
Project cancelled
Withdrawal of company/investment
Proposal and development of alternatives:In the Occupy Chevron (Poland) web site [5], in the section “Postulaty”,  they assumed clearly:
1. Stoping activity of Chevron corporation and their subcontractors in the area of Grabowiec till legality of intentional actions will be confirmed. Its actions will lead to irreversible destruction of natural enviroment in the area, and eventual penalties will not remove the damage.
2. Taking into account opinion of local communities by the authorities and all entities leading the mining activity on our land - especially Chevron corporation.
3. Removing all accusations towards protesters and also stoping the process of intimidation the local authorities. Chevrons’ lawyers threats authorities and inhabitants of Zurawlow with penalties as a consequence of taking part in the protest. At the same time Chevron tries to agitate protestants with inhabitants of neighbouring villages by, for example, hiring them as bodyguards, who constantly film protestants. Is it how Chevron “supports local communities”, as stated on its website.
4.Making all Chevron’s actions transparent. We demand  access to all documents concerning actions conducted by Chevron that are having influence on natural enviroment in our area. Transparency is the basis of dialogue, necesarry to build “relationship with communities”.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:The determination of the Zurawlow's farmers to expel the fracking Chevron activities, was so strong, occupying for many days fields and roads, that they made Chevron withdraw.

Sources & Materials

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[9] Anna Szołuch, Gaz łupkowy w Polsce. Historia, magia, protest (Shale gas in Poland. History, magic, protest). Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Naukowe PWN SA (2021)

 [8], Drill Baby drill/La malédiction du gaz de schiste/ Gas-Fieber, Lech Kowalski (2013)

[7]Raluca Besliu,Polish village of Zurawlow is model in anti-fracking fight, Cafebabel, August 20, 2013

[10] Helena Leman, Bronimy ziemi, nie łamiemy prawa (We defend the land, we do not break the law), Tygodnik Przegląd, March 10, 2014

[11] Helena Leman, Przynajmniej nie staliśmy bezczynnie (At least we didn't stand idle), Tygodnik Przegląd, August 11, 2014

[12] Damian Żuchowski, Początek lata w Żurawlowie (The beginning of summer in Zurawlow),, June 22, 2013

Anca Dumitrescu, Chevron renunţă la explorarea zăcămintelor de gaze de şist din Polonia,Mediafax, February 1, 2015

 [1]  Stanley Reed, Chevron to Abandon Shale Natural Gas Venture in Poland, New York Times, January 30, 2015

 [2], Chevron lascia la Polonia: il fracking costa troppo, February 6, 2015

 Arthur Neslen, Polish shale industry collapsing as number of licenses nearly halves, The Guardian, October 9, 2015

 [3]  Arthur Neslen, Poland's shale gas revolution evaporates in face of environmental protests, The Guardian, January 12, 2015, Marius Şuiu: De ce s-a retras Chevron din Polonia și România ,February 22, 2015

Nofrackingvallespasiegos, Chevron abandona la aventura del Shale Gas en Polonia, Enero 31, 2015

Economie.hotnews, Chevron renunta la explorarea zacamintelor de gaze de sist din Polonia, February 1, 2015

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Lech Kowalski, Vincent Brown and Christine O'Brien-Bucciero, 100 DAYS OF OCCUPY CHEVRON, September 10, 2013

 [5] Occupy Chevron (Poland)

Occupy Chevron, press related to Occupy Chevron in Poland, Curated by camera war

Quynhanh Do, Oil Prices’ ‘Spectrum of Pain’, As the price of crude oil fluctuates, why some countries are faring much better than others, The New York Times, January 27, 2015, Photo by Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters, in  [1] Stanley Reed, Chevron to Abandon Shale Natural Gas Venture in Poland, New York Times, January 30, 2015

AntyŁupek, Protest mieszkańców Żurawlowa i okolicznych miejscowości przeciwko firmie Chevron, która ma zamiar wykonać odwiert a następnie wydobywać gaz łupkowy metodą szczelinowania hydraulicznego niespełna 300m od najbliższych budynków mieszkalnych, Mar 9, 2014


 [6]Greens EFA, Zabronić hydroszczelinowanie i eksploatacji gazu łupkowego w Europie zanim będzie za późno!, in Occupy Chevron (Poland), September 3, 2012

Other documents

Jarosław Badera and Paweł Kocoń, Moral panic related to mineral development projects – Examples from Poland, April 2, 2015

Meta information

Contributor:Myriam Bartolucci, EJAtlas internship researcher, [email protected]
Last update10/08/2022
Conflict ID:2314



 [4]  Arthur Neslen, Poland's shale gas revolution evaporates in face of environmental protests, The Guardian, January 12, 2015

A shale gas exploration drilling rig near Majdan Sopocki, owned by the Polish state-owned oil and gas company PGNiG. Photograph: Stanislaw Wadas/Demotix

Anca Dumitrescu, Chevron renunţă la explorarea zăcămintelor de gaze de şist din Polonia,Mediafax, February 1, 2015

Chevron renunţă la explorarea zăcămintelor de gaze de şist din Polonia (Imagine: Mediafax Foto/AFP), Marius Şuiu: De ce s-a retras Chevron din Polonia și România ,February 22, 2015


 [4]  Arthur Neslen, Poland's shale gas revolution evaporates in face of environmental protests, The Guardian, January 12, 2015

A shale gas exploration drilling rig near Majdan Sopocki, south-east Poland, owned by state oil and gas company PGNiG. Photograph: Stanislaw Wadas/Demotix

 [4]  Arthur Neslen, Poland's shale gas revolution evaporates in face of environmental protests, The Guardian, January 12, 2015

Zurawlow, in south-eastern Poland, where people successfully campaigned against drilling by Chevron. The protest banner reads: ‘Poland has gas, America has profits.’ Photograph: Stanislaw Wadas/Demo

Occupy chevron (Poland)


 [5]Occupy chevron ( Poland),


 [5]Occupy Chevron ( Poland),


 [7]Raluca Besliu, , Polish village of Zurawlow is model in anti-fracking fight, Cafebabel, August 20, 2013

'Occupy Chevron' gets support from residents of Polish city Lublin | courtesy of ©

 [4]  Arthur Neslen, Poland's shale gas revolution evaporates in face of environmental protests, The Guardian, January 12, 2015

T-shirts and caps with anti-fracking messages at the headquarters of the Zurawlow anti-fracking movement. Photograph: Stanislaw Wadas/Demotix

 [3]  Arthur Neslen, Poland's shale gas revolution evaporates in face of environmental protests, The Guardian, January 12, 2015

Barbara Siegienczuk, one of the leaders of the local anti-shale gas protest group Green Zurawlow, with her husband and co-activist, Andrzej Bak. Photograph: Stanislaw Wadas/Demotix