Romanian court rejects local councils’ decision to ban shale gas prospecting

Romanian court rejects local councils’ decision to ban shale gas prospecting


By Daniel Stroe – Bucharest

A decision by several local councils in the Vaslui County to ban exploration and exploitation of shale gas within their jurisdiction has been reversed by the Vaslui Court following a complaint lodged by the country prefecture.

Vaslui County, in eastern Romania, on the border with the Republic of Moldova, is the territory where large shale gas deposits have been found and where the American company Chevron is currently drilling to assess the volume of the exploitable gas. Barlad, the town which is the closest to the drilling areas, has seen one of the largest anti-shale gas protests in Romania over the past year.

Vaslui Prefecture has based its complaint on an article in the Romanian Constitution regarding the country’s natural resources and filed it only after the local council refused to annul their decision. The article says such resources belong to the state and, therefore, local authorities have no authority to decide in this case.

So far, six out of eleven local authorities sued by the Vaslui Prefecture have lost the trials, other five trials pending a verdict which may come late September or early October, according to the Romanian news wire Mediafax. The court’s decisions are not final though and they can be appealed.

Only two local councils administer territories where such exploration drills are now being made and the large number of the councils which resisted the Prefecture’s order to allow the drilling shows a growing concern among both local authorities and people regarding the effects of the fracking or hydraulic fracturing.

Many say that after a likely rejection in the Romanian Parliament of the controversial gold mining project at Rosia Montana, in Western Transylavnia, the focus of the debate will shift towards the shale gas, already envisioned by large protests. Authorities in Bucharest maintain shale gas is indispensable for Romania’s quest of energy independence from Russia and often bring up this argument during the debates. A final rejection of the Rosia Montana project may encourage environmentalist movements in Romania and hence set up larger protests