The fearless battle of an entire region to protect our land, our beaches, our health, our traditions, our communities, our future. One by one, we have empowered the common man using the irresistible weapons of knowledge. To the oil companies that intend to destroy us, ENI, Petroceltic, MOG, Edison, Shell: let it be crystal clear.

You are not welcome here.

We will fight to the bitter end.

We shall defeat you.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Can Abruzzo’s Tourism Afford an Oil Spill?

Today the BBC’s World Service revealed that 20,000 gallons of crude oil is trapped in Alaska’s gravel beaches from the Exxon Valedez Oil disaster and is impacting the local eco-system, sea otters, sea ducks and other sea birds, all of whom are producing an enzyme that indicates exposure to oil. The original belief was that the leaked oil would bio-degrade hence clean-up operations had been disbanded in 1992.

Professor Michael Boufadel, chairman of the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering at Temple University, has found there is a susceptibility of beaches worldwide to long-term oil contamination where beaches tend to be gravel or a mixture of sand and gravel. What happens is that the gravel traps the oil between two layers of rock, with larger rocks on top and finer gravel underneath.

The beaches in Abruzzo are mostly soft & sandy, though there are many stony gravel ones, particularly in the Chieti region. Accidents in oil extraction from equipment failure, human error, and natural impacts, i.e. earthquakes, are not just a possibility but highly probable. The chances of accident are increased not just by the proposed oil rigs that major oil companies have applied to construct, but from oil traffic, i.e. oil tankers that would be visiting the proposed refinery in Ortona to take Abruzzo’s low grade oil to distant shores.

Abruzzo’s growing popularity as a holiday destination saw the region this weekend featured by leading UK press: The Times, who named it within its Top 10 ‘Adventure Holidays of a Lifetime’, and within The Guardian who did a feature on Abruzzo Ski-ing, and this is just for its lesser known ‘winter sports’. Tourism benefits all trades within Abruzzo not just the farmers & winegrowers who supply the restaurants, but the chefs that are employed, the marketing companies who promote the area, the printers who create marketing materials, small construction & building companies who build hotels and villas for tourists to stay, to name just a few of those and the ancillaries thereof who benefit. None of these people will be employed by oil companies nor will they have a job if there is an oil spill on Abruzzo’s Adriatic coastline.

Boufadel's study was funded by a $1.2 million, three-year grant from the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council. The council was formed after the environmental disaster to oversee restoration of the sound. Does the Abruzzo Government think it will be in a position of power to request such monies from any of the oil companies involved in future oil exploration in Abruzzo? Does it have funds available to pay for future unemployment that will occur if disaster strikes?

Listen to the BBC Programme, Science in Action that revealed Professor Michael Boufadel's research or read here the findings of his study on long-term oil contamination.

Trabocchi Photograph © 2010 Life in Abruzzo

Saturday, January 16, 2010

MOG's Application to Delete Abruzzo Fish Stocks & Endanger Fishermen's Jobs

The fight to stop Abruzzo being trampled by the greedy squabble for its low grade oil continues. Yet another application has been received to drill the very traditions and wildlife out of this beautiful region of central Italy, an appreciation shared by George Clooney (who has just finished filming there) and film directors Anton Corbijin and Luc Jacquet.

This new application has been submitted by the English oil giant MOG (Mediterranean Oil & Gas Co Ltd), who wish to set up an oil rig 6km opposite the Marina di San Vito that sits in the very heart of the trabocchi coastline, and slap-bang in the middle of a fish reserve. This will bring death to both fish and fishermen whose livelihoods will be ruined and who most certainly will not be employed in this enterprise if it is approved.

To understand how this will cause the local marine reserve to falter & die, one first needs to understand the stages of life of an oil platform; each stage shares a common method of dumping toxic drill cuttings and chemicals back into the sea which poisons the very life therein. All have a lethal affect on fish, birds, molluscs, and mammals like dolphins and humans that eat them. This includes cancer, stunted growth, irregular growth of feathers, scales & skin, respiratory system & liver problems in addition to irregular reproductive behaviour.

First Stage - Seismic Survey

Underwater explosions of around 250 decibels (the human pain threshold is at 140 db) are created by air guns to deduce underlying geology that is measured by the reflected sound waves. This has a particularly disturbing effect on dolphins which use sound for communication & navigation. Fish are also displaced, which in turn affects the dolphins and birds which feed on them. Studies have shown that the numbers in fish stock is reduced by 45% within 9.5 km of these blasts. The blasts can damage tissue, including lungs, guts and ears in mammals, and swim bladders in fish.

Second Stage – Drilling State

At this point, "muds" (lubricants) are pumped down, to keep the drill bit cool and to regulate the flow of oil. They consist of hydrocarbons, heavy metals (including cadmium, mercury and lead) and other toxic chemicals, as well as chemicals that stop rusting, and detergents. The drill cuttings (the removed rock) is dumped onto the seabed and the cuttings asphyxiate the life of the seabed, severely impacting the structure of the ecological communities up to several kms around.

Third Stage - Platform & Pipeline Installation

The installation of the platform & pipeline causes further disturbance to seabed ecosystems, through dredging, filling and anchoring. Underwater structures are treated with protective chemicals, which release toxins into the water. The oil platform discharges not just the water it needs to keep it cool, but sewage, constant noise and light pollution.

Most fields contain water as well as oil and gas. This "production water", containing both oil and chemicals, receives only very simple treatment before being discharged. The discharges of production chemicals is estimated at 6,000 tonnes per year (30% of quantity used), plus 84,000 tonnes of drilling chemicals.

Despite Italy signing up to the EU Directive ‘Marine Works (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2007’, it appears that scant attention is being paid to this act either by MOG Ltd or by any Italian Ministry accepting this application. We urge anyone who wishes Abruzzo to retain its diverse and healthy wildlife to write to these 2 ministeries to petition against this application, here is an example letter for those that need guidance,you will need to change your name and address, the ministery address and the application reference to the MOG reference below. Time is short, please act now as the deadline for petitioning this application is January 25th 2010.

Attention of: Direzione per la Salvaguardia Ambientale del Ministero dell'Ambiente e della Tutela del Territorio e del Mare
Address: Cristoforo Colombo, 44 - 00147 Roma
Application Number/Attenzione: Ombrina Mare - concessione 30 BC MD - Mediterranean Oil and Gas

Attention of: Direzione Generale della Pesca Marittima e dell'Acquacoltura del Ministero delle Politiche Agricole Alimentari e Forestali
Address: Via dell'Arte, 16, Piano 3, Stanza 5 - 00144 - Roma
Application Number/Attenzione: Ombrina Mare - concessione 30 BC MD - Mediterranean Oil and Gas

Further Reading
To read the application form that MOG has submitted click here

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Kids Say No! SOS Abruzzo

Watch the brilliant video that has won a national award for local school children from Ortona. Hear why they want a future Abruzzo to remain oil free and do not want oil companies building an oil refinery in their town. It is naturally in Italian, but these clever kids have added English subtitles to extend the message, ensuring that not just politicans but English speaking Oil Companies hear their wishes.