Citizens of a small town in Abruzzo, Italy win big in environmental governing body's decision against proposed gas extraction that would pollute pristine region's land, water, and air.
On April 10th, 2012, the Commission for Environmental Impact Evaluation in Abruzzo, headed by Mr. Antonio Sorgi, unanimously rejected gas drilling and refining plans as proposed by the Forest Oil Corporation, headed by CEO Craig Clark, after a prolonged awareness campaign involving residents and activists.
According to public documents, the American oil giant had begun considering drilling a first cluster of five gas wells, a refinery, and multiple waste pits back in 2008. The company had anticipated extracting a total of at least 50 billion cubic feet of natural gas containing high levels of hydrogen sulfide to be refined 200 meters from the nearest residence in Bomba, Abruzzo, population 900.
Bomba sits along the banks of a popular recreational lake by the Parco Nazionale della Majella, a scenic national park that draws local and international visitors due its pristine environment and breathtaking views. Its economy is largely driven by agriculture and tourism.
Residents reacted strongly to drilling plans and uncovered Forest Oil Corporation's reports, according to which drilling could pose severe hydro-geological risks to a highly unstable, seismic area prone to subsidence and landslides. The project also called for the emission of pollutants from the refinery exceeding Italian legal limits, which would permeate the town center.
Official statements in opposition to drilling by the Forest Oil Corporation were filed by nineteen municipalities in the area, the Province of Chieti, the Catholic Church, the World Wildlife Federation, the Union of Merchants and Tourist Operators, and dozens of local organizations as well as the heirs of American author John Fante.
In a last-ditch effort to gather public support, executives from the Forest Oil Corporation visited Bomba in August 2011. They were confronted with incensed residents, who asked cogent questions that the Forest Oil executives were incapable of addressing. Later, the company stated that it was the first time in their 95-year history that they had received such informed and firm opposition from a local population.
The campaign to save Bomba is part of an ongoing effort to save Abruzzo, Europe's green heart, from turning into a giant oil field. The campaign has been largely coordinated by Professor Maria Rita D'Orsogna, a California resident with origins in Abruzzo. In the past five years, this international activism has led to the rejection of another oil field and refinery in Ortona, sponsored by Italian oil giant ENI, and of the Ombrina Mare oil rig proposed by Mediterranean Oil and Gas of London.
In a brazen act of defiance against Italian officials and the unanimous will of local population, the Forest Oil Corporation of Denver plans to appeal.