By Daniel Stroe – Bucharest
The American company Chevron today announced it has resumed exploration works in the Vaslui County, in Eastern Romania, after a month during which it suspended works due to protests of villagers who clashed with gendarmes today as the former sought to block the equipments.
“Chevron can confirm it has resumed the operations in the Silistea perimeter in the Pungesti commune, Vaslui County. Chevron intends to do only exploration works, using conventional technologies (…) according to the permits we obtained early October 2013” the company said in a press release. It also added the company will observe all the environmental agreements and will seek to engage the local community in order to lay the basis of a positive and constructive dialogue.
The authorities mobilized a large number of policemen, gendarmes and firemen as locals sought to block the road and prevent Chevron’s equipments from reaching the exploration perimeter. About 30 protesters were detained for identification by gendarmes and as the number of demonstrators increased some locals accused the police of using force to remove them.
PM Victor Ponta defended the gendarmes’ actions. “I think Romania can be a democratic and strong country if we all observe the laws and if we don’t accept and we won’t accept that 20-30-50-70 people break the law” Ponta said, underlining the perimeter where the exploration works will take place is Chevron’s private property.
The protests started on 14 October and amid wide media coverage Chevron decided to suspends the exploration works near the village of Pungesti. The company had received a permit on 3 October to install the first exploration well after it had submitted all the necessary documentation. Chevron also received exploration permits in three other areas in the Constanta County, in SE Romania.
As the protest movement gathered strength, the local council called for a referendum on the shale gas exploration and banned until the plebiscite all the shale gas related works. The Vaslui County prefecture sued the local county. In Bucharest, authorities tried to remove the locals’ fears, pointing out Chevron does only exploration works, and not production.