Romanians Protest Against Shale Gas Drilling

Citizens concerned about water contamination.

More than 2,000 Romanians protested Thursday in the eastern Barlad region against plans by U.S. oil company Chevron Corp. (IW 500/2) to drill for shale gas, saying they feared it would contaminate ground water.

"Go back, Chevron" and "Say no to fracking", some of the banners read, in reference to a controversial tapping technique.

Hydraulic fracturing or 'fracking' uses high pressure injections of water, sand and chemicals to crack open rock and release oil and gas trapped inside.

The method is condemned as dangerous by environmentalists and has been blocked by countries such as France and Bulgaria, while the U.S. states of New York and New Jersey have imposed a drilling moratorium.

"Even if no well is drilled in my village, we will all be affected, because the ground water will be polluted," Camelia Arsene, 33, told AFP.

"They will take advantage of us and when they go away they will leave behind contaminated water," Gabriel Silvescu, 31, a tour operator, said.

In Bucharest, dozens of people rallied in front of the government's headquarters to call for a ban on shale gas drilling.

Chevron which has a concession covering nearly 1.5 million acres in the Barlad region plans to drill the first exploration well in the second half of 2012.

Country manager Thomas Holst told AFP that Chevron was committed to respecting all European Union and Romanian regulations.

"Chevron will use standard techniques to determine if there are resources," he said. If it discovered commercially viable reserves, the company expected to invest tens of millions of dollars.

Canadian group Sterling Resources and Hungary's MOL are also interested in exploiting Romania's shale gas.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2012

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