ManiFEST Press Release, First Edition: “Don’t Mess with Us”
Bucharest, 12th September 2014
For a few days, between 6th and 8th of September, the village of Puiesti (Romania) was uplifted from an unobtrusive Vaslui village to a center of activism. Several organizations and informal action groups, including “FrackFree Group” – Bucharest”, “Civic intervention Group” – Braşov, “Resistance Group Puieşti” and “Resistance Group Pungeşti”, with the support of groups such as “Oastea lui Ştefan” from Vaslui, “Resistance Bârlad” and volunteers from all over Romania and Europe (Greece, UK, Bulgaria, Rep. Moldova), gathered to create the first edition of the ManiFEST festival (for a world without fracking), entitled playfully but strongly: “Cu noi nu te PUIesti” (Don’t mess with us). The festival took place in a symbolic space, owned by village councillor David Roma, located close to the perimeter where Chevron holds all permits required to build an exploration well for shale gas.
Just like the activists, dozens of pro-bono musicians gathered from hundreds of miles away, sometimes refusing other lucrative contracts, in order to accept the invitation of the organizers, believing that music and art in general can spark a revolution. Performers of all ages and genres went on stage, including artists from the Vaslui area (Afty, Rotaru, Gotic, No Name Band) and renowned artists, such as Harry Tavitian, Mihai Iordache, Maria Raducanu, Urban Area, El Negro, Soul Serenade, Aud Band, Clay Windham, Fine it’s Pink, Baba Dochia, Stema, Crowd Control, Lish, Taissia, all relaying the same message: “We don’t want Fracking in Romania!” Romanian artists also received reinforcements from abroad, from the band Gologan of Sofia (Bulgaria) and Frances Leader, a well-known activist and singer from the UK anti-fracking camps, all joining to express solidarity with the struggle of the Romanians against fracking. On the last day of the festival, Kartier theatre group from Bacau took to the stage and played MMA- an play with an explicit antifracking plot.
All the musicians and artists supported from day one the idea of this festival, being pleased with the result:
“The festival has been great! With such genuine people aware of the hell that awaits us, with the love and dedication which animated the organizers and participants, greedy companies will have a hard time here. With courage and dignity, our message to Chevron was: Don’t mess with us! This was the general state of mind, whether it was the villagers of Puiesti, or friends from across the country who joined us at the festival to enjoy the music, or the volunteers who made the impossible possible in achieving this event (Romanian and foreign environmental activists, fellow musicians) “(Harry Tavitian, jazz player).
“We thank the organizers and volunteers who work tirelessly, sacrificing time and convenience (taking into account the spartan conditions that they had at the festival). With their help, more and more people are informed and are united towards a country with values other than short-term profit. “(Laurentiu Gondiu, AUD Band)
“We were very happy to be part of this extraordinary event. The feeling was great, full of friendship and devotion (to the cause). We really enjoyed the quality of the music – all bands were top-notch and very motivated by the frack free world cause. Also, we enjoyed the friendliness and warmth of the local people. We hope that your fight will have a happy end and that land, water and air around Puieşti will remain Frack free. We stand Together for a world without fracking! (Petar Tchouhov, Gologan, Bulgaria)
Being an activist festival, ManiFEST also focused on discussions and presentation workshops, as well as community activation sessions. Activists from all over Romania, including a group of locals from Pungeşti, located 45 km north of Puiesti, recounted their experiences on hydraulic fracturing and sent messages of encouragement to the Puiesti community who joined the discussions, especially on the 7th and 8th September. In addition to hydraulic fracturing, the workshops also addressed related topics such as renewable energy (Department of Energy Alternative of Digital Transylvania), traditional/self-sustainable agriculture (Willy Schuster, Bio Moşna) as well as the Greek Save Skouries campaign against cyanide mining and the economical crisis in Greece and the UK antifracking fight.
Among the locals, several local councillors were also present (11 of the 13 councillors of the village are against hydraulic fracturing), as well as teachers and engineers who have all committed to participate in informing and enabling the community to block the installation of the Chevron well(s) on their lands. The activists and local community representatives have strengthened their ties with the goal of having an early warning mechanism that should prevent the recurrence of the outrageous human rights breaches in Pungeşti. As with Pungeşti, the locals of Puiesti are fully aware of the need to fight by all peaceful means to protect their land and water. Villagers mentioned that that water from the neighbouring village of Gâlţeşti became cloudy, with a local women complaining of skin irritation associated with water consumption, which she blamed on the seismic tests done in the region last year. The activists have pledged to investigate the matter and support the community’s efforts beyond the festival by informing and activating it.
The festival was organized with the support of Puiesti Town Hall, with donations from individuals in the country and Diaspora Romanians, who again have shown their support in the fight against fracking in Romania. Although the organizers contacted various companies for sponsorship, no reply was received concerning the reasons for their refusal. However, everyone understood that due to multiple pressures on all levels regarding the issue of shale gas and hydraulic fracturing, companies are reluctant to associate their names with this topic for fear of reprisals from state institutions, despite privately supporting the cause.
Although organized in record time and with very limited resources (both in financial and human ressources terms) the three-day festival had more than 1,000 visitors, with various percentages each day (mostly activists on Saturday, a balanced crowd of activists and locals on Sunday and mostly locals on Monday). The anti-fracking activists came from all over the country and from the diaspora (Belgium, France, Italy, Germany, Canada), youth from the Moldavian region, especially from the two major cities in the area, Barlad and Vaslui, and of course, representatives of the Puiesti community.
After the festival, a permanent anti-fracking camp was established on the land where the festival took place, with the support of activists and locals. Also, it has been decided to drill a water well on the land where the festival took place. Beyond its symbolic meaning, the water well will allow for water samples to be collected before and after the drilling, in the unfortunate event that the rig is installed, despite strong community opposition.
The Festival organizers consider this first edition of ManiFEST a successful cultural-activist precedent to be replicated across the country and the world, in places where there is a need to activate and inform local communities, and where support from the local officials already exists, as in Puiesti.
A video catching the atmosphere of the festival with some interventions in English from the organisers, as well as a video explaining the idea behind the festival.
You can see photos from the event here, here, and here.
You can read an article about the Festival here.
The ManiFEST team
Maria Olteanu, Grupul ”Fără Fracturare”: 0040 723 129 080
Hetti Benedek, Grupul de Intervenție Civică (GIC) : 0040 734 596 089
Festival site: http://www.festivalmanifest.ro
Our fellow group member Alexandru Popescu, who has been on hunger strike under the blue sky during last winter, has set off today on his 3150 km long walk for a frackfree Romania and Europe. Some 50 other activists have joined the start of his walk. He will be on the road for the next 3 months, reaching, among others, Budapest, Vienna, Berlin, Paris and eventually Brussels. On the 1st of December, the National Day of Romania, he will be delivering an antifracking and anticyanide message in front or inside of the European Parliament.
Another group member Gayzer Frackman will be joining him setting off 14 days before Alexandru Popescu will reach Brussels, to enhance the message and show solidarity. We hope that meanwhile the two of them will inspire more people Europe-wide to join this march.
Dear antifracking community worldwide,
The antifracking activists in Romania have the pleasure to invite you to the first international arts & music anti-fracking festival, ManiFEST, taking place in Puiești, Vaslui County, on 6-8 September 2014.
We have a saying in Romania: “In the autumn, one counts one’s goslings”. Since last autumn, we started a new tradition here, in Romania: we started counting the goslings that care about the future of their country.
From FanFest, the first environmental activist festival in Romania, dedicated to the fight against cyanide mining, we are moving to the other side of the Carpathian mountain range and setting up a new natural dam against projects that are deeply threatening to the environment and public health. A dam which consists of: common sense, a thorough and unabiding connection to NATURE, and the respect for the right of communities to decide on their own future. A dam made of informed and determined people. Determined to stop the destructive steamroller of fracking which is threatening to destroy the future of humanity and our almost unspoiled part of the world, Romania.
Motto: Don’t mess with us! (Romanian: “Cu noi NU TE PUIesti”, word-play)
Organisations and informal groups opposed to fracking, with the help of the municipality of Puiești, Vaslui County, have joined forces to organise the first festival dedicated to the fight to preserve our clean water, air and soil and the public health – the ANTI-Fracking fight. The idea of the festival started when we realised that it is sometimes easier to bring people together and communicate about social and political issues, by means of art and music.
ManiFEST Festival 2014 is the first of many exciting activist events set to draw the attention on the tremendous dangers of fracking, especially among the youth. It also emphasizes the right of communities and individuals to live in a clean environment. We also want to put forth alternative development models, to present alternatives for the rural communities, away from the concept of extraction, that´s so deeply rooted in the minds of our illegitimate government, who declared themselves against this concept until they came to power. We also want to show them that the POWER is in our hands, the people’s, the 99%.
ManiFEST festival will contribute to strengthening the awareness of the general public on the issue of hydraulic fracturing and unconventional fuel extraction, and will send out a message of support for all the communities that are threatened by fracking projects, in Romania and elsewhere. We are all convinced of the fact that fracking is a very dangerous technology, with a huge and irreversible impact on human health and the environment.
One cannot mess with the locals in Puiesti. They are determined, just like the people in Pungesti and many other people in Romania and elsewhere, to put an end to the insanity of fracking, at all costs.
For this, they need our support, as they are facing such a struggle for the first time in their lives and they lack the means and the skills to oppose an energy giant such as Chevron. Our support will give them power to fight fracking with even more determination, against the drilling planned by Chevron. It will also help the participants and the supporters to connect with the elements they are so connected with nature, unlike people in the cities: the water and the earth and understand why fighting for them is so important.
Also, the solidarity they will be receiving from all over Romania and the world, exactly like that in Puiesti, will show people in the communities that are threatened by fracking projects (that’s the case for roughly 70% of the Romanian countryside, which is home to almost half of its 20 million population) that they are not alone against this unprecedented aggression towards life on Earth.
This year, the festival will be organized on a field right next to where Chevron wants to drill its second exploration rig, only 1 km away from the village of Puiesti.
We will have activism and civic resistance workshops, movie screenings, debates, great music, healthy food and loads of positive energy, hopefully enough to pull down the rig!
Confirmed artists (the list is updating by the day)
Gologan (BG), Frances Leader (UK)
Harry Tavitian, KUMM/ Mihai Iordache, Rotaru, R.U.S.T., Lish, Division of Joy, Taissia/The Fine o’Clock Band, Poetrip, Soul Serenade, Maria Raducanu, Lish, Rotaru and Afty, Fine it´s Pink, Pinholes.
The organisers of the event: The Resistance Puiesti, the Resistance Pungesti, Frack Free Group, Civic Intervention Group, supported by the Puiesti municipality.
All the performances are pro-bono and the festival is organized by volunteers from various cities across Romania, as well as from the Romanian diaspora. International guests are expected and welcomed to take part in the event.
In order to organize this first edition, we need your help! As the municipality of Puiesti is on a shoestring budget, we need to raise funds to get the artists to the location, accommodate them, rent the stage and the sound equipment, and pay for the meals of the volunteers who will help setting up the area. We also need some money to print out materials (posters, leaflets) and to drive around to manage the organization of the festival. Any penny matters!
Thank you in advance for your solidarity!
Account holder: Olteanu Mariana
IBAN: DE72 1007 0024 0509 2564 00,
All type of publicity and partnership is also highly appreciated.
Convinced that a frack free world is possible,
The ManiFEST team thanks you all for your support
Please visit our page: http://www.festivalmanifest.ro
Pungești has already become a symbol of the resistance against fracking, famous both in Romania and internationally. For more than 9 months, the people in Pungesti have shown a rare civil courage while fighting an oppressive state apparatus set to destroy their brave resistance. Yet they did not surrender. Now the exploration derrick has been removed from Pungesti, yet the people have grown very strong in their fight and are very determined not to let the rig there enter the exploitation phase.
In Puiesti, the new hotspot of the resistance against fracking in Romania, a new rig for exploring for shale gas is about to be drilled by Chevron, its second one in Romania, yet unfortunately not the second shale gas exploration well, as we keep unveiling their hidden drilling shale gas exploration projects elsewhere in Romania. In Puiesti, the Local Council has drafted and unanimously voted an anti-fracking ban document, which is now being fought against by the central government. The whole community is against fracking, as well, just like in Pungesti.
Nevertheless, Chevron managed to get a building permit this summer and is preparing to drill an exploration rig for shale gas. This time, unlike last year, in Pungesti, when Chevron, helped by the whole state apparatus, has brutally intervened to quench any form of resistance, we want to get there before Chevron does. We want to “welcome” them as they are supposed to be welcomed. Not with bread and salt, like the Romanian hospitality tradition requires for a guest, but with loads of decibels. Much more than those they will be employing to drill their rig, day in, day out. On top of that, we will “welcome” them with peaceful resistance, creatively, intelligently, just like the mindset of the people living around here.
The festival will also help to set-up and strengthen the second permanent anti-fracking camp in Romania.
The rig in Puiesti is one of 2800 rigs intended to be drilled in Chevron’s EV2 Barlad perimeter in NE Romania, and one of the tens of thousands planned to be drilled all over Romania, on the more than 60% of the Romanian territory licensed for drilling, including hydraulic fracturing. This makes the fracking problem by far the biggest environmental problem Romania and the world will be facing in the medium, long and very long term, unless the citizens of the world, united, join forces to stop this horrific threat to life on Earth and to Mankind.
This year at FanFest we plan to discuss various subjects, but all in strong connection to Rosia Montana and environmental protection. Fracking endangers the environment, the local communities and it destroys the possibility of a true sustainable development, in full respect for the local decision and consent.
The activists that bare the toughest battles in this field are calling on all of us to get involved:
”Friday, on the 15th of August, we will take a retrospective look to what has been done in this area, good or bad. Until now we fought our battles individually, but now its high time we coordinate our actions. Lets all meet at FanFest to identify and plan joint actions at national level. We expect all of you, as many as possible, with feasible ideas and, most of all, the belief that we can fight and win the war on fracking!” – Maria Olteanu, antifracking activist.
Friday, August 15th, starting with 19:30, the organizers of the FanFest festival are pleased to welcome this meeting on fracking and shale gas extraction to take place at the Forum Tent. Please join in!
International support highly appreciated!
United we win!
No gazaran! No fracking! Not here, not anywhere!
Chevron announced today that it has finished drilling its first exploration rig in Pungesti and that it will withdrew from the village of Pungesti, which seen one of the most dire human rights situations in reaction to fracking in the whole world. The move comes one day after the peaceful protest of the 25 people from Greenpeace, coming form 7 countries, was staged, yet no connection between the two events was made so far.
Chevron was supposed to be drilling until it reached the depth of 4.000 meters, yet it withdrew after having drilled only about 3.000 meters depth. No further explanations were made by the company as to why it did not go all the way down, as proposed. The drilling was supposed to be taking 3 months, yet Chevron made the announcement 2 months and one week after its aofficial announcement of the beginning of the drilling. The activists in the area, who tried to keep an eye on the works, maintian that the drilling started earlier than the beginning of May, as the last part of the rig arrived in Pungesti on 18th of March, and the scene was all set for it to begin. An explanation of this earlier withdrawal than expected could be due to this situation which was held from people’s eyes, whatever the reasons are.
Some inofficial rumors, also coming from inside the Chevron site, have it that the research in the laboratory has already begun and that there are no prospects for shale gas in the area of Pungesti.
The activists are nonetheless very prudent and are expecting to see further developments until they believe such news. According to the planned project, made by the American company it accompanied Chevron, Halcrow, Chevron had the explicit permission to also do a test micro-fracture, which apparently did not take place at the site. Even the Romanian Environment Minister said there will be no fracking job done in Pungesti, despite the planning documents of Chevron.
According to Chevron’s press release, they have operated under maximum safety and the drilling finished without any incidents. Yet, there are enough evidences to think that there was a serious accident which happened at the drilling site on the 18th of May, but it was covered up in a “X-files” manner. Also, the locals and the activists have documented alterations of the colour of the water in the nearby waterstream, as well as heavy air pollution coming from the site. The continuous noise, as well as the high speed at which the numerous of trucks going back and forth through the village, especially at night, were a contant nuissance for the locals.
Of course, the biggest problem of the presence of the Chevron’s rig in Pungesti was the restriction of the civil liberties of the locals, as well as the incredible abuses of the riot police, documented by different NGOs, including Friends of the Earth Europe, who published a report on the dire human rights situation in Pungesti, which culminated with the Romanian state declaring the area around the rig a special security area, by means of an illegal order, as the situation in Pungesti was not among the situations defined by the Romanian law as requiring such a measure to be taken.
The news of Chevron leavin Pungesti leave the activists and the community without much information of whether they are expected to be coming back or not. Everyone is now expecting the results of the laboratory analysis of the rock. Yet, everyone expects that Chevron will move to its following site, which is a few km further South from Pungesti, Puiesti. Here, the local council has adopted a fracking ban, voting unanimously. The ban was challenged by the court in Vaslui county and the local council won, on grounds that the state is the only one entitled to be deciding how to tackle subsoil ressources. This is just one of the 10 other court decisions who go against the right of the communities to decide what type of economic development they want on their territory, unlike the court in New York, who decided last week that the communities accross New York have the right to ban fracking by means of planning regulations.
Other 3 local bans have won previously, with a different argumentation, stating that shale gas is not listed in the oil law as belonging to the state – in fact, shale gas and unconventional fuels don’t show up anywhere in the Romanian law -, which makes it an asset of the local community. These 3 decisions, taken by a different court than that who previously decided differently, the court in Iasi county, are now challenged by the Prefecture Vaslui (the institution representing the Romanian government at the county level).
The activists and the locals in Puiesti are prepared to defend their village the same way they did it in Pungesti, if the heavy machinery will start showing up.
Greenpeace activists from 7 countries stage protest at the Chevron shale gas exploratory well in Pungesti
A group of 25 Greenpeace activists from seven countries on Monday staged a protest in Pungesti, at the site of the exploratory shale gas well owned by U.S. company Chevron, pressing for a ban on hydraulic fracturing for shale gas extraction, reads a release of the environmental organization on Monday.
The activists from Romania, Hungary, Austria, the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia and Germany staged a peaceful protest and declared a quarantine zone around the Chevron well, forming a human chain at the entrance of the Chevron frackingm site, and then chaining themselves to the fence surrounding the well and held up banners with the messages: “Pungesti — Anti-Chevron Quarantine Area”, “NO to Hydraulic Fracturing”, “Stop the Abuses in Pungesti!”
In April this year, Chevron started drilling its first official shale gas exploratory well (there are fearsm of others, done quietly, hidden from the public scrutiny, in other parts of Romania). Chevron also plans to install other wells in the neighboring villages. The company obtained the environmental agreements for four more rigs in the county of Vaslui: Paltinis (Bacesti), Silistea (Pungesti), Popeni (Gagesti) and Puiesti; for the latter the Vaslui County Council has also issued the necessary building permit.
So far, 13 local councils in the County of Vaslui (Alexandru Vlahuta, Bacani, Coroiesti, Dumesti, Gherghesti, Pochidia, Perieni, Pogana, Puiesti, Tutova and Vinderei) adopted decisions banning shale gas exploration and exploitation.
Chevron Romania also received three exploration, development and exploitation farm-out agreements for three blocks in Adamclisi, Costinesti and Vama Veche, located in the South and South-West of Constanta County, bordering Bulgaria, which has a ban on fracking dating back to January 2012.
Greenpeace CEE Romania, alongside other non-governmental organizations, challenged in court Chevron’s four exploration / development / exploitation shale gas fracking farm-out agreements for the blocks in Vama Veche, Adamclisi, Costinesti and Barlad.
In Romania, several local councils issued decisions to ban fracking based on the law on public local administration that confers the authority to decide on the environmental and development policy of the administrative unit. The said decisions were challenged by prefectures (the representatives of the Government at th county level) and are pending before courts in the counties of Vaslui, Iasi, Arad, Bihor and Suceava.
On the other hand, the highest court of the State of New York ruled on June 30, 2014 that towns can use zoning ordinances to ban hydraulic fracturing, acknowledging the towns’ authority to ban fracking through land use regulations.