Poland is seeking new resources for its energy future. It hopes to go deep underground and fuel its country’s future with shale gas. But with that hope comes a slew of legal, environmental and societal concerns without answers.
The former Eastern Bloc country has good reason for wanting to explore shale gas and seek energy independence. Poland is nearly completely reliant on gas from Russia. The majority of their energy comes from coal – but the country is under pressure to adapt to European Union environmental standards and reduce Co2 Emissions in the next few years – leaders think the way to do this is by hydraulic fracturing.
They have hopes for a new industry, one that will bring in foreign investors and will help the already thriving energy companies reach new levels of financial success.
Although a recent report from the Polish Geological Survey stated that there was far less shale gas in Poland than previously thought, leaders are forging ahead, drawing up a hydrocarbon law and planning on drilling dozens of wells in the next year. In the last two weeks, I’ve conducted over forty interviews –with The Deputy Minister of the Environment, with geologists and engineers and with attorneys who represent the gas companies. I’ve traveled to the rural outreaches of the Southeast and Northern provinces and spoken with local mayors, administrators and townspeople who are both excited and fearful of what shale gas exploration may bring. Some are adamantly opposed; they feel the environmental risks outweigh any positives fracking may bring. Some leaders are hopeful –they say that the industry will bring jobs and money to the communities.
The people I spoke with live in sparsely populated agricultural communities – and like living this way. If and when the exploration phase of shale gas turns into an industrial phase, they are scared of what it will mean for their communities. They fear the government is not looking out for their best interests and the land they’ve lived on for many years may be destroyed by the fracking process.
Captions for Photos
1 and 2 - Signs leading into Źurawlów in Southeast Poland near the Ukrainian Boarder. The signs draw upon the regions painful past. One reads “Chevron: We Don’t Want Gas” making a double reference to the gas chambers used during the Holocaust and the gas extracted through unconventional shale gas drilling. The other sign reads “Yesterday Chernobyl, Today Chevron.” Chevron has concessions in the community.
3- In Źurawlów, Andrzej Bąk and his wife Barbara Siegieńczuk read a letter everyone in the community received from Chevron, inviting them to a meeting discussing shale drilling. Bak and his wife are opposed to the practice and feel there has been little government oversight in the way concessions have been granted,
4 - In Stężca and Klokowa Huta, a Kashubian community in the Baltic Sea region of Poland, BNK Polska has an exploratory well.
5- A series of extensive stories on shale drilling in Poland will be airing on Essential Public Radio 90.5 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania this August.
Erika Beras, Warsaw, Poland 7/12/2012