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Unrest in Pungesti as Chevron Resume Fracking Plans

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MONDAY morning in Pungesti, a village in east Romania, protesters who for weeks have blocked road access to a fracking exploratory site, set to be exploited by giant energy company Chevron - were quashed by hundreds of riot police.

For over six weeks villagers in Pungesti, mostly farmers, camped round the clock in tents preventing vehicle access to an exploratory site targeted by Chevron for the possible extraction of shale gas. As a result, in mid-October the energy company temporarily withdrew its plans.

The rural village came under siege in the early hours on Monday morning by hundreds of riot police who removed protesters away from their resistance line. Two protesters, an elderly man, and a woman in her fourties, were administered to hospital after being met with force by the authorities.

Matei Budes, who is part of Vira Association, an NGO opposing fracking in Romania, said: "It was like a country border on Monday when we tried to enter the perimeters [of Pungesti]. The police blocked the entire village and nobody could come in or go out, they occupied the two neighbouring villages, and the media was blocked from entering the site"

"The riot police were standing on the other side of the road to the [protesters] blockade, and the police walked up and intervened, and took them by force"

The Romanian government reported that 300 riot police were occupying Pungesti, but local's report between 800 and 1000 is a more accurate figure.

Chevron released a statement after Monday's events, saying: "Chevron can confirm that it has resumed operations. Our priority is to conduct these activities in a safe and environmentally responsible manner consistent with the permits under which we operate."

In 2010 Chevron signed a deal with the Romanian government for rights to exploit 2 million acres of land, and according to The U.S. Energy Information Administration, Romania has 51 trillion feet of shale gas, enough to cover domestic demand for more than a century.

Protesters fear that fracking, the process of pumping chemicals at high pressure into deep rock to extract oil or gas, could damage the local environment by contaminating ground water.

An internet petition has been set up headed "Stop Chevron and the police abuse in Pungesti", and has gained over 27,000 signatures. It will be sent to The European Parliament, The European Commission, and various human rights organisations.