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Romanian Fight Against Fracking Heats Up As Winter Sets In

Fracking blockade cleared by riot police, but protests continue

- Common Dreams staff

In the latest example of local residents organizing in opposition to the fossil fuel industry's "fracking boom," which has staked its claim in many communities around the world, U.S. oil giant Chevron has found itself engaged in a showdown in rural Romania.

Romanians at anti-fracking protest in Barlad, Romania on September 1st, 2013. (AFP Photo/Andrei Pungovschi) "On a frozen field braving police, Romanian villagers hold vigil in a makeshift camp set up to block US energy giant Chevron from exploring for shale gas," Agence France-Presse reports.

"We have potatoes to eat, an improvised stove. We protest to protect our way of life and our health," said Romanian farmer, Alexandru Focsa, from the camp, which until now had successfully blocked Chevron from its prospects in the village of Pungesti, North-Eastern Romania since October when the company won approval to drill exploratory wells.

However, on Monday night riot police moved in wielding batons and cleared the camp, allowing Chevron to begin its exploration.

"Police arrived at night, they beat us up with batons and dragged us away," Focsa told AFP.

"The authorities do not want to listen to us but we are determined to go on despite the abuses and the fines handed by the police," he said.

The fight, however, is not over, as many of the protesters have returned to the protest camp since Monday night. While the blockade no longer holds, protesters are taking turns in a vigil against the operation.

"Villagers have been taking turns guarding the site since October, sleeping in tents," Reuters reports. "They oppose the project and say they do not want what they say are the environmental risks of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking - the process of injecting water and chemicals at high pressure into shale formations to release the gas."

The remaining protesters are not alone, however. As fracking has become a hot-button issue in the country, many anti-fracking protests have popped up throughout the year and has spread to a nation-wide battle.

As Reuters reports, "Thousands of people have rallied across Romania in recent months to protest against government support for shale gas exploration and separate plans to set up Europe's largest open cast gold mine in a small Carpathian town."

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