The Environment Ministry of Romania recently granted US energy giant Chevron the much contested exploration rights for shale gas in three areas in Eastern Romania. Chevron has long tried to obtain these permits, but serious objections against its plans were raised both by local communities in the concerned areas (ranking among the poorest in the EU) and by the incumbent Government of Victor Ponta, before its election in 2012 (see CrisisWatch 12).
Chevron’s plans include a 2D geological survey in Constanta and the drilling of exploratory wells in Vaslui County. Constanta is located on the Black Sea coast and hosts important beach resorts and cultural monuments. The communities inhabiting Vaslui County are particularly impoverished and depend primarily on subsistence-level agriculture. Yet the demonstrations against this activity in the economically depressed region have been impressive.
Shale gas has been heavily criticised by environmental NGOs, such as WWF. According to a recent statement by WWF UK, there is a fundamental incoherence between the extraction of shale gas and tackling climate change, due to the serious impacts on the natural environment.