Romanian county court reverses ban on shale gas exploration

Romanian county court reverses ban on shale gas exploration


By Daniel Stroe – Bucharest

Vaslui County Court rejected as illegal a decision passed by the local councilors of the Puiesti commune, in Eastern Romania, who banned shale gas exploration and production within the village perimeter after the US Chevron had got a prospecting authorization.

The councilors voted to ban the exploration drills last November amid fierce protests from villagers which forced Chevron to suspend works. The new verdict comes after the Vaslui Prefecture had won against the Puiesti Local Council early this year, arguing the ban encroaches upon the law on soil resources.

“Local communities cannot declare for exploitation of soil resources since these are the state’s exclusive property” the prefecture argued in its complaint. The institution which represents the government in the counties has also won other 12 trials launched against local councils which had banned shale gas prospecting activities, two councils filing for appeal. Vaslui Prefecture has also lost three such trials, making an appeal for each as well, according to Mediafax.

In May, Chevron started exploration drills near the village of Pungesti which was last year the scene of violent clashes between villagers and the police. The company has three other environment licenses for explorations in three other locations in the Vaslui County. In Puiesti, Chevron organized a meeting with the locals in order to explain its activity, but the meeting failed after environmentalists sabotaged it.

Amid the flaring debate on shale gas, Romanian PM Victor Ponta pointed out in April that production is not going to start any time soon. “For now and for the next five years, Romania will not exploit a single cubic meter of shale gas. Secondly, when I look at the European map and I see all our neighbors – except for Bulgaria which has probably made a political and not necessarily a technical decision – have issues shale gas exploration licenses. Over the next five years, Romania has to come up with the most modern and performing environmental legislation so that, if in five years we are going to start the production, we shall have all the guarantees” Ponta said in an interview for the stat radio broadcaster.

Romania has shale gas reserves of about 1,444 billion cubic meters which, judging by the average annual consumption of 14 billion cubic meters, can ensure the country’s gas autonomy for about a 100 years, reveals a report of the US Energy Information Agency (EIA).