Sunday, December 15, 2013

Chevron trying to buy shale gas rights in Romania by bribing children

The other day I wrote about Romanians in a tiny village fighting off Chevron's plan to tap Shale Gas reserves, deploy hydraulic fracturing, while facing police violence because the Government is doing Chevron's bidding.  The story is an encapsulation of the whole globalized search for fossil fuel resources, and the negative reaction people around the world are having against fracking.  I decided to take another tour through the news about the anti-fracking protests in Pungesti, this time through the lens of the local newspaper based in Iasi, the regional capital.

The site at which Chevron has set up drilling and fracking operations, is 20,000 square meters in size, 2 hectares, which is about 3 acres.  In other words, the focus of all this activity is one frack site, which would be one natural gas well once the fracking is finished.  What's important about this site is that it is the first use of hydraulic fracturing in Romania.  If Chevron can get this one site going, that will open the door to other frack sites in Romania.

Further, Europe in general is moving strongly against hydraulic fracturing but in this case we have the Romanian central government working with Chevron to ensure the fracking takes place.

According to one report (below) no environmental impact reports were created, and the use of hydraulic fracturing is not allowed under Romanian law.

An article from December 10 notes that December 10 is recognized as International Human Rights Day, in honor of the signing of the Universal Statement of Human Rights by the United Nations, in 1948.  The actions described below constitute extreme police brutality of the sort that violate what we think of as human rights.  Basic in those rights are the rights of assembly, freedom of speech, to air grievances, etc. 

I've also collected a few videos of the anti-hydraulic fracturing protests in Pungesti



The most recent bit of news is pretty egregious - what's reported is that Chevron representatives are going around Pungesti trying to buy goodwill by distributing backpacks full of school supplies and candy to children. 

A related topic of protest is the proposed gold mining operation at Rosia Montana.  This is an ancient site of huge importance to the Romanian people, and there are protests underway against the gold mining project.  Over 200 people protested in Cluj-Napoca (a city near Rosia Montana) and also evoked the fight going on in Pungesti.  Slogans:
"Romanian Parliament came home thieves", "Dictatorship the Pungesti, Romania where are you? "" Ponta's, liars nation "," shale gas poisoning water, air soil. " They chanted "Save Rosia Montana Unite", "rain, snow, united we will win" "Thieves", "Solidarity", "The political class is beneath criticism," "Ponta Down, down, you're a liar."
Another protest, in Bucharest, starting at University Square and went to Victory Square, in support of several issues including the fight in Pungesti.

What appears to be derived from a police report of what happened in Pungesti, says that a public defender (Avocatul Poporului) has arrived to conduct an Investigation. and write a report for the public.  A travel ban has been imposed on the area.  The protesters were mostly locals, but people from as far as Bucharest, Brasov, and Sibiu also came to the protest. 
Initially, the protest was peaceful, but at one point protesters last county road and reached the gate fenced area owned by Chevron, some of them entering the oil company land and throwing rocks at trucks frmei employed by Chevron . At the same time, people began to pull the fences enclosing managed to demolish almost entirely. Several of the protesters were picked up and taken to the Gendarmerie cars to give statements, while others were lying down on the road to not allow these vehicles to leave the area, protesters pushed the gendarmes. Protesters who were lying on the road were swept away by jadarmi and taken on the road. Following these incidents, police Vaslui was a "special security zone" in towns and Pungesti Silistea where Chevron has a perimeter of 20,000 square feet to explore shale gas and the number of law enforcement has been increased considerably. way, through a disposal of municipal police chief Vaslui, in towns and Pungesti Silistea and on the county road that connects the two villages has been increased considerably the number of security forces patrolling, mostly in the gendarmerie. Moreover, gendarmerie and police have set up filters on the county road Vaslui - Garceni at Silistea and Pungesti and anyone passing through the area is legitimized by the police. Also, the police can not arrest cars or people walking in the right perimeter owned by Chevron. Incidents between policemen and locals Pungesti held in December 2, when Chevron began work for laying of gas exploration wells sist in Silistea-Pungesti. Several protesters were charged when they were assaulted by gendarmes. 3 October, Chevron has obtained a building permit for the location of the first wells in Vaslui shale gas exploration in Romania, after the company has received all necessary approvals from the prospecting authorities soil perimeter at Silistea.


A famous poet, Mircea Dinescu, has attacked the Government over the Pungesti affair. What government is the one who sent masked to beat old women in the village?

On Thursday (December 12th), the local court decided the police had not committed abuse.  A pair of lawyers filed a request to lift the travel ban mentioned above, and calling on the police (Jandarmeriei Romane) to respect human rights.  These police, the Gendarmes, are closer to military than to regular police.  The lawyers also sued the Ministry of Public Finance and the Director General of Public Finance.  Since no representative the big organizations from the central government was present, the case could not be heard, and the judge put in a 24 hour delay.

Also on Thursday (December 12th) is news of the continuing protests in Pungesti.  The travel ban is designed to harass and intimidate the locals, and is so restrictive they cannot even take their cows to pasture or use outdoors toilets.  Essentially, Pungesti is under seige.

One measure is to work with the school system to intimidate teachers, and students, because apparently some of the teachers have been lenient about their students who are at the protests. The County School Inspectorate (Inspectoratului Scolar Judetean) are demanding that teachers check their students more carefully.

Two Europeans, an Austrian and a German, went to the protest site to check on events and to distribute food.  But they have run into trouble with the police. 
"I love Romania, I love the people of this country, but in my heart of European citizen, I feel abused the way they are treated by the police of that State, riot police who should be in the service of people, not in the foreign company having business interests in these places, "said Bernard Alexander Eickhoff.
The headline reads "Is this normal?"  The report, dated Tuesday December 10, says that "more and more people who were present at the protest say that the gendarmes had committed abuses unimaginable."  A couple people arrived at the local hospital with cracked skulls.  One of them said "We fell to the ground and was hit in the head with his boot. beat me and left me there on down unconscious. When I returned, I crawled to a neighbor and then I got to the hospital."

Another, Vlad Ioachimescu, was among the protesters, and while filming the protest the police twisted his arm, broke his camera, and took him to the police station.
"Today, the Romans living in their country as Nelson Mandela once lived in the country, who suffered for decades in the name of justice. urge all those who think just be patient, to attack in court. believers there in Pungesti have no one to blame. they do nothing but defend their land and demand that they not be poisoned waters. Everybody priests Vaslui County were punished, do not receive any money from the budget because they are against the project, "said Reverend Father Basil Parcalabu during a sermon.
On Monday December 10th, the Secretary of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Florea Oprea, ordered the Police to keep the peace.  It focused on two things - the conduct of public meetings, and the "natural use of the public roads."  The latter is an issue because the protests blocked the highway, preventing traffic from flowing.

On Monday December 9, Dr. Tudor Cluhodaru, called on the Government, and the Prime Minister, to obey Romanian law in regards to both Rosia Montana and the hydraulic fracturing proposals not just at Pungesti but Baile Felix
"Mr. Prime Minister. From Pungesti capital fight against shale gas extraction through hydraulic fracturing, ask right all the way and keeping promises in December 2012. Want that citizens will no longer be ignored both in terms of Rosia Montana and extraction shale gas. If you're afraid to do this you can consider resignation

Maybe you know or will not care that on October 9, the European Parliament recognized the risks risks of hydraulic fracturing on the environment and health and voted, even lawmakers USL complement to mandatory environmental impact assessments and public consultation.

While foreign companies will involuntarily get everything Vaslui our law, which prohibits hydraulic fracturing in shale gas exploitation, lying in drawers Chamber of Deputies. We ask you to stop operation of the Pungesti because there is no impact studies and any consulting population and may, as he found time to visit in the mine in Rosia Montana, you'll come to listen and Romans Vaslui.

Because we've cleared that lawmakers in Vaslui will do nothing for this law to be enacted ask, regionalization in perspective, the Bacau and Iasi to support this legislative measure for the safety of the region. While talking hand USL energy security while resources are used by a foreign company we are talking about energy security embodied in our health and in our way of our living.

We remind you that our patience is not unlimited and that we reserve the right to protest further and initiate a campaign to collect signatures for a referendum in which we will ask unqualified resignation. You have gas, we have a match! "
Also on Monday December 9, there is a raw report about protesters being beaten.  This report attributes the beatings to the "orders of foreigners" (Chevron). 
  • A real battlefield opened a few days and have already started to fall first injured
  • A war between two sides with unequal forces between peasants, protesters and the police
  • People found themselves beaten, chased, stick in vans that started the revolt against Americans who have invaded land
  • To have sought justice themselves, the locals came to be hunted directly from home
  • "The terror began manhunt is arresting people with no heads charge. were closed all the bars, people must not be more than three in the street, "said Constantin Paslaru, one of the protesters at Pungesti


On Saturday December 7, the report describes what's essentially a battle between police and protesters.  Protesters gathered in the morning, then around noon began making their demands that Chevron cease all activities.  Then things got out of hand, with the fencing being almost totally destroyed (attributed to protesters) and then tempers rose with the police beginning to arrest people.  By mid afternoon some had escaped into the woods, with police chasing after those people, while they were arresting and processing everyone they could.

There's an extensive picture gallery at the end of that report.

Another report on Saturday goes over the protest, but begins with a complaint by Chevron to the local police about the damage caused to Chevron's equipment due to the "illegal protest."  Chevron issued this statement:
Chevron confirms today (no Saturdays) activities in Silistea-Pungesti suspension due to unsafe conditions work generated by illegal activities and violent protesters. Chevron notified the police Vaslui about equipment damage our property products. Chevron does not tolerate violence in any form and reiterates its commitment to be constructive and positive relationships with the communities where they operate and continue the dialogue with the interested public, local communities and authorities about his projects. Consequently, our company has temporarily suspended activities to ensure that any work done can be done safely to the community and its employees
Another report on Saturday talks about one of the protesters, Bogdan Buta, who received an intimidating visit by a Secret Service officer from the Ministry of the Interior

Going by the news reports there was a similar round of protests and police brutality the weekend before, and the weekend before that.

On November 21, it was announced that the Prefect of Vaslui (Prefectul de Vaslui), Radu Renga, is being investigated for abuse of office following demonstrations in Pengusti.  Note, that this investigation was launched BEFORE all the violent abuse we outline above.  The report describes earlier protests in which people have been camping next to the Chevron site since at least early October, and blocking Chevron from getting equipment to the site.  The protesters included at least four priests in religious garb. 

In early November, the Romanian Senate considered a bill which would have banned hydraulic fracturing.  But, the bill failed in the Senate and did not pass.  The bill was initiated by Tudor Cluhodaru, who we saw above, and would have prohibited the use of hydraulic fracturing in exploring for fossil fuels.  It would have levied stiff fines against the practice.

On Thursday, October 31, the City Council of Pungesti unanimously agreed to hold a referendum on November 24 to consider banning shale drilling and hydraulic fracturing.  They also sought to remove the Mayor from office.


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