On September 18th, the Parliament ratified three concession contracts for blocks between the Hellenic Republic and a) Energean Oil & Gas/Petra Petroleum, b) Energean Oil & Gas /Trajan Oil & Gas LTD, and c) Hellenic Petroleum / Edison / Petroceltic. The areas where hydrocarbon exploration and drilling has been approved are the onshore block of Ioannina, in the Region of Epirus, the offshore block of Patraikos, and Katakolo, in W. Peloponnese. Also ratified by parliamentary law was a fourth contract with Kavala Oil S.A./Energean Oil and Gas/Hellenic Petroleum S.A., which modifies a 1999 contract for the offshore area of the Thracian Sea. Despite the Minister’s expressed concerns about the possibility of shale gas extraction in Greece, on environmental grounds, the ratified contracts for onshore exploration do not exclude fracking.
In his parliamentary speech, Environment, Energy and Climate Change Yiannis Maniatis stated: “[T]his is a historic session of the National Parliament. With national pride I propose the ratification of the three concession agreements between the Hellenic State and the contractors, who will exploit the country’s mineral wealth relating to hydrocarbons. With national pride, I and the entire Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change, as well as the few public servants outside of the ministry who helped in this effort, feel that we exercise our highest patriotic, social and development duty. And we are proud of this”.
The Government of Greece boasts of expected oil and gas revenues for the public coffers from these three areas reaching EUR 15-18 billion in the next 30 years and EUR 150 billion from drilling activities in the entire Ionian Sea and Western Greece area.
Environmental and local organisations have reacted to the Government’s promises for an oil and gas bonanza that will save Greece from economic misery on the grounds that:
- In conjunction with the Government’s plans to further exploit lignite for electricity production, it locks the country in a dirty energy model for decades to come, thus completely undermining global efforts to fight climate change and develop sustainable, low-carbon economies.
- It undermines the potential that renewable energy has for creating jobs, ensuring energy security, and contributing towards a living economy model, the country so desperately needs.
- Hydrocarbon extraction is a particularly hazardous operation, that seriously undermines the potential of the tourism and agriculture based economies of Western Greece.
- Environmental protection from drilling activities is seriously in question since the Greek Government moves forward with new exploration activities before Greece transposes into national legislation the new Directive 2013/30/EC on the safety of offshore drilling operations.
- The expected oil and gas revenues are lacking any serious documentation which ties the estimates of public revenues from hydrocarbon exploration with the actual contracts signed and the existing Greek laws (2289/1995 and 4001/2011).
Since the wake of the economic crisis, cash strapped EU Mediterranean states frantically promote oil and gas as the spearhead of their economic recovery strategies. In addition to the threats for the climate caused by the utilization of new hydrocarbons for energy production, Iconic iconic and ecologically sensitive marine and coastal areas are at serious risk, in Spain, Italy and Greece. Such threatened natural treasures are the Hellenic Trench, the Italian island of Pantelleria and the Canary Islands in Spain.