Friday, August 22, 2014

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Romania: Chevron Suspends Shale Gas Activities

In a news release issued today, Chevron Corp. announced the suspension of activities for the exploration and extraction of shale gas in Romania.

Acknowledging recent protests, representatives of the energy giant declared themselves aware of the strong concerns showed by citizens over the potential impact of hydraulic fracturing in the exploration of the unconventional gas.

For over a month, residents of Vaslui County have protested against the decision of the Romanian Government to allow Chevron to commence shale gas exploration in a concession area located near the city of Barlad.

Chevron’s decision comes after residents of two other localities near Vama Veche and 2 Mai, took to the streets at the end of last week to protest the prospect of having a shale gas well operating in their area.

According to the company and agreements published in the Official Journal of Romania on March 28, 2012,  Chevron could have immediately started prospecting and exploring for shale gas in the three concessions near the Black Sea resorts of Vama Veche and 2 Mai, in the area of Vama Veche, Adamclisi and Costinesti.

This area of the Dobrogea (Dobruja) region borders Bulgaria, where a ban on hydraulic fracturing is already in place. Romania and Bulgaria share the Balkan's largest underground resevoir in the area and Bulgarian authorities have warned their Romanian collegues that shale gas exploration may put this resource at risk.

By temporarily suspending activities, Chevron appeases protesters even though concession agreements for exploration, development and operation, completed with the National Agency for Mineral Resources (ANRM) are legally valid.

Another issue raised by the protesters is for the public access to the agreements between Chevron and Romanian state. According to the press declarations of Chevron representatives in Romania, as well as the last press release announcing the suspension of operations, the company has no objections to making public agreements with Ungureanu Cabinet.

Chevron has indicated that it has nothing to hide from civil society or Romanian media, and that it is prepared to inform the public about contract terms, technologies used in the operation and the consequences on human health and the environment.

Conversely, it appears that it is the Romania authorities who do not wish to make public the relevant agreements.

It might well be that Romanian politicians, both in the ruling coalition and the opposition, are more concerned with electoral opportunities than any issue of prospective effects of hydraulic fracturing method on public health and the environment.

Chevron’s decision to cease the exploitation of shale gas has an indirect political consequence, as 2012 is an election year in Romania.  The company's actions will save the ruling coalition politicians from having to justify their positions, as the ministers who signed the agreement with Chevron are from all parties which form the ruling coalition.

Governmental approvals of the last three concession agreements for oil exploration, development and exploitation perimeters Costinesti, Adamclisi and Vama Veche are concluded between the National Agency for Mineral Resources (ANMR) and Chevron Romania Holding BV are signed by President of National Agency for Mineral Resources (ANMR), Alexandru Pătruţi, Minister of Economy, Trade and Business Environment, Lucian Nicolae Bode, Minister of Environment and Forests, Laszlo Borbely, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, Alexandru Nazare and Minister of Public Finance Bogdan Alexandru Dragoi and countersigned by the Prime Minister of Romania Mihai Razvan Ungureanu.

As the agreement was the signed at the highest levels of Romania Cabinet, this allowed political opposition to join the street protests, demanding answers from Ungureanu Cabinet and making it an important public issue, though official election campaigns have yet to start.

Related Reading: Romania Shale Gas Battle Set to Begin

by Silviu Molnar

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