Conflict over land

Occupy Chevron: Resisting shale gas development in Poland

by Maxime Combes

In the morning of the 2nd of June, 2013, under the protection of security guards, the American multinational Chevron took possession of a piece of land situated close to Zurawlow, Poland, in the Grabowiec concession. Chevron was coming to install all its equipment for shale gas development. Residents of nearby villages tried to intervene.

This article was originally published in French by Basta!. Translated by Laura Voicu.

A protester was injured by a vehicle belonging to the firm and was sent to the hospital. Since then, more than 150 people occupy this piece of land, asking for Chevron’s departure. Activists have put up a big tent with a collective kitchen and debates on the dangers of hydraulic fracturing or on strategies against transnational corporations. Chevron’s trucks are just 6 kilometres away, ready to come back.

Chevron says it has all the necessary authorisations, including from the Environmental Ministry, to proceed with their plans on the piece of land (of about 2,7ha). According to locals, the authorisation for seismic studies is only valid until December 6th, 2013. And the authorisation to dig was cancelled in June 2012. A few months before, Chevron temporary gave up exploration in the village of Zurawlow after a strong local mobilisation. This story is told in the documentary film „The curse of the shale gas”, recently broadcasted on Arte and directed by Lech Kowalski.

Coming back to the region, Lech Kowalski was surprised by Chevron’s obstinacy, given that two other North-American oil giants Talisman Energy and Marathon Oil had announced, as Exxon Mobil already had before, that they would leave Poland because they could not find significant shale gas reserves.

Confronted with the silence of the Polish media and with the deep complicity between Chevron and local and national authorities, anti-fracking activists need international support. French groups opposed to shale gas and shale oil development have published a press release and an online petition in support of Occupy Chevron has also been organised.

According to Lech Kowalski: ”Occupy Chevron goes beyond the issue of shale gas; it’s about multinationals who want to impose a certain life-style to people. Polish farmers want others to know this.’’