Americans Want Slovak Oil — The People Want Peace and Quiet

Maria Silvestri
5 min readFeb 23, 2016

Originally published 18 February 2016 by Mario Hudák

The fight for oil in the Northeast continues. Drillers suspended work due to the blockade.

SMILNO/BARDEJOV. Last week the Polish subcontractors, who prepared a one-hectare rig for exploration and production wells for the American-Polish drilling company Alpine Oil and Gas, left.

The activists’ blockade took time. The dispute over the exploratory drilling for oil and shale gas in Northeastern Slovakia flared exactly a year ago.
The drillers uncompromisingly defend the licenses and wells, which the first Fico government authorized. People in three villages where they have drilled are categorically against it, afraid of drinking water and wells in the dumping area.

The Blockade Continues

“People from the Polish firms left, returned machinery, construction machinery and trailers. They removed the car that previously parked over panels. They said that if gets warmer, they will come back,” the local activist and businesswoman Marianna Varjanová describes the current situation in Smilno.

Her car blocked the drillers’ path to the drilling platform since December. With the assistance of the Bardejov police, in early February miners departed and overlaid concrete panels.

“Anyway, the access road blockade persists, regardless of whether someone is there or not. We’re actively monitoring the situation,” says Varjanová.

It Affects the Community

The media representative for Alpine Oil Gas, Vladimír Miškovčík, confirmed that the work suspended due to the local blockade.

“The situation is the same as we declared at a press conference in Prešov in mid-January. The company announced that it would start exploratory wells and that will not change. Yes, in March, we have choices, and this topic attracts the attention of the media and politicians, engaging some quarters, however, we see them as political motivated rather than the desire to help people.”

“At the moment, the work in Smilno was suspended just because the access road was blocked and machinery could not get there, we are losing time and therefore money. We are waiting, as the blockade develops further. Of course, we are not waiting idly, but all within the standard procedures, permits and licenses that we have. We have also taken some steps towards the local community, but I would not like to finalize them now,” Miškovčík added.

Research

Alpine Oil and Gas has been looking for oil and gas in northeastern Slovakia since 2006. The exploration license area was authorized by the first Fico government under the leadership of Environment Minister Jaroslav Izak for ten years in August 2006.

So far, the company has invested €18 million. It owns four concessions for the exploration and search for new sites in Svidník, Medzilaborce, Snina and Pakostov areas.

In the first phase, there should be three wells to a depth of up to 1,500 meters in the cadastral area municipalities Oľka (Medzilaborce), Ruská Poruba (Humenné) and Smilno (Bardejov). The first well is to be in Smilno.

“The first phase of exploratory drilling is expected to last 14 days, it would be an area of about 100x100 meters, the work should be 24 hours a day. In the event that we don’t run into any deposit, the whole surface is returned to its original state under the current mining law,” said the Czech geologist and managing director Stanislav Banada.

Drilling

If, based on the extraction yield and the bearing abundant, the drilling should be six to eight years. Then land will be completely cleaned, recultivated and returned to the original owner, say the drillers.

“In that case we could pump 20 cubic meters of oil per day. Realistically, it would it look like three towers were standing on a hill with three wells that would pump. We would sell the oil to the closest refinery in Poland and the state should receive 5% from the sale, by law,” explained Benada.

According to him, in Smilno it’s not about the negatively perceived hydraulic fracturing technology, but standard pumping, which will not bring or leave any environmental risks.

Without Discussion

For exploration in northeast Slovakia, Americans pay the government €500,000 a year. Half goes to the State Environmental Fund and half to the accounts of villages in the cadasters where the exploratory territory extends, according to the proportion of square kilometers.

If the Americans want to start with drilling after research, land use decisions require necessary approvals within the villages’ administration. Residents don’t even agree to the research. They fear contamination of groundwater, wells, roads devastation, environment, risk of explosion and the technology used.

Disputes are mainly about whether or not they use of hazardous method of hydraulic fracking. The state and local government have criticized the lack of information without prior public debate.

Petitions, Protests, Parties

In April 2015, after a petition against drilling, the people drove them away from Oľka. The drillers moved to Smilno.

Two days before Christmas, with police assistance, there were skirmishes between landowners and company lawyers in Ruská Poruba.
In Smilno, activists blocked the access road since 25 December, the way that heavy machinery moved to the future drilling platform.

Previously, the people of Smilno expressed in a petition that they did not want any drilling, and the resolution was supported by the mayor and local representatives.

They’re Worried About Water

The problem is also the poorly transposed European Union Directive. All over the world, there are exploratory and production wells known as deep drillings, and they are subject to rigorous assessment, studies, analysis and projects.

In Slovakia, the process of exploratory drilling for oil, which caused the scandal in the Northeast, is exempt. Villagers in the Northeast are especially worried about groundwater, which supplies local wells.

Conservationists believe that in exploratory drilling and extraction itself, technologies would be used which intend to use hazardous chemicals such as hexavalent chromium, the effect of which may threaten groundwater.

They Won’t Disclose

Neither the drillers nor the state have yet allowed municipalities to assess project exploration and extraction, or any environmental impact study, to be developed in such projects according to the developed EU directive.

The Ministry of Environment refused to disclose the project document for the exploratory drilling. They referred to the drillers’ copyright.

“Project documentation qualifies under copyright and this information is perceived as unique documents constituting the company’s know-how in terms of geology and other procedures and approaches to the solution of the geological task and they are protected by copyright. The company does not agree with the provision of that information to third parties in any way,” said Ján Vanin from the Ministry’s office, explaining the negative decision.

Marianna Varjanová also pointed out that if the owner of the access road working with the contractor agrees, according to the Ministry’s Geological Law, may decide on forced restriction of property rights upon request.

The convoy departed. Works are suspended. Photo: Mario Hudák

Link to original article. Translated by Maria Silvestri.

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Maria Silvestri

IT>EN and SK>EN translator, President of the John and Helen Timo Foundation. Based in Pittsburgh.