Hydrocarbon frenzy in Greece

Iconic and ecologically sensitive marine and coastal areas are at serious risk by the ongoing oil and gas exploitation frenzy currently pushed by the Greek Government.

Last week, Environment and Energy Minister Giorgos Stathakis submitted to Parliament for approval three bills ratifying contracts for hydrocarbon research and extraction in the offshore block 2 of the Ionian Sea, and the onshore blocks of Aetoloarkanania, Arta-Preveza and NW Peloponnese.

In 2014, the Parliament ratified another round of contracts for hydrocarbon exploration and drilling in the onshore block of Ioannina, (Epirus region), and the offshore blocks of Patraikos, and Katakolo.

Since the wake of the economic crisis, cash strapped Greece has promoted oil and gas as the spearhead of its economic recovery strategy, claiming that significant revenues can be gained and dependency on hydrocarbon imports will be reduced. In addition to the impact of burning fossil fuels as the main cause of climate change, oil drilling causes severe impacts on the areas of concern and undermines the potential of local economies for sustainable development.


The quest for oil threatens Spanish marine reserve

As the economic crisis is driving crisis-hit Mediterranean states to a frantic quest for new oil and gas deposits, areas of exceptional ecological significance are placed under serious threat.

In Spain, the pristine marine and coastal environment of the Columbretes islands (Castellón) is about to host a new oil exploration survey. Early in January 2013, the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Tourism gave its initial consent for the project, which will have to obtain an environmental permit from the Ministry of Environment, before the final approval is signed. 

If finally approved, the exploration survey will begin in 2015.

The Columbretes islands enjoy protection status at the level of the Autonomous Region (Natural Park and Natural Reserve), at the national level (Marine Fisheries Reserve), at the EU level (SCI and SPA) and at the international level (Specially Protected Area of Mediterranean Importance).


Sources: WWF Spain, Diario de Ibiza, Observario petrolero sur (all in Spanish)



Parliament of Greece approves oil & gas deals

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. 


NGOs contest Spain’s approval for oil exploration offshore the Canaries

A coalition of Spain’s five largest environmental groups is taking legal action against the official authorisation granted by the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Tourism to oil giant Repsol for hydrocarbon exploration offshore the Canary islands.

Despite massive protests against the planned project, the Spanish Government gave Repsol an “all-clear” licence for offshore exploration in three marine plots close to the islands of Fuerteventura and Lanzarote. A series of appeals were heard at the Supreme Tribunal and were rejected in June.  

In a joint statement, environmental groups WWF, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Ecologistas en Accion and SEO Birdlife announced their intention to take European legal action against this decision.


July-August 2014 editorial

As Europe’s response to the economic crisis is now having a clear impact on environmental and social policies across most of Europe and the EU at large, overexploiting the natural environment is seen by troubled member states as a quick-fix solution for rapid economic recovery. The oil & gas frenzy that dominates the development agenda in many Mediterranean states and threatens natural treasures of global significance, environmental deregulation, backsliding of the EU from its own forward-looking green policies, are signs of these dire times of austerity and political paralysis in facing the dismal reality of the non-ending economic crisis.

WWF knows that the EU is wasting a crisis that signals the need for good change.


Over 90,000 sign pledge to save the Canaries from new oil & gas

Since the wake of the economic crisis, debt ridden states are promoting heavy footprint investments in resource extraction as the spearhead of their economic recovery strategies. Iconic and ecologically sensitive areas in the Mediterranean are at serious risk, due to oil and gas projects in Spain, Italy and Greece. Particularly at risk are the Canary Islands, Pantelleria in Sicily and the area of the Hellenic Trench, extending from Southern Crete to the Ionian Sea. 


Soft recommendations, but no rules for fracking…

In retreat from its initial position and disregarding the European Parliament’s vote for the inclusion of shale gas operations under mandatory EIA rules (CrisisWatch 21), the European Commission will only be proposing a set of ‘soft’ recommendations for this environmentally hazardous hydrocarbon extraction technique.

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