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.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

To the Forest Oil Corporation: maybe you can mess with Texas but you can't with Abruzzo

On June 5th 2011, a tiny Italian town, Bomba, Abruzzo, population 900 gave a lesson in environmental studies, civic participation and democracy to American Big Oil and its tentacles.

This time the public enemy was the Forest Oil Corporation of Denver, who was represented in Italy by Mr. John Klein and Mr. Giorgio Mazzenga.

Mr. Klein had flown in straight from Houston, Texas with a cohort of 17 other oil execs and Mr. Rene Bakker, from the Paques Corporation.

They probably thought all they had to do was tell these Italian peasants that their magnificent oil refinery was going to be a job boon, safe, beautiful and giving out a fragrant fresh spring smell.

It is not the first time oilmen try to convince us to let them drill Abruzzo.

After more than four years, we are angry and tired but determined not to let Big Oil kill everything we are and have. We have kicked out Mediterranean Oil and Gas, Petroceltic, ENI and all their fracking friends, sending them back to where they came from.

We are sure we will defeat the Forest Oil Corporation as well.

For the past 5 years the Forest Oil corporation of Denver had been trying to drill the town of Bomba, which lays at the feet of a beloved recreational lake, and to put a nasty refinery in the midst of our towns, in an area that is geologically fragile.

Bomba is highly seismic, it periodically experiences mudslides, the natural subsidence rate is high, and back in the 1960s the oil company ENI decided not to drill the same location because it was not safe.

Today people live off of tourism, farming and winemaking.

That is who we are. Oil does not belong to our tradition. Period.

The Forest Oil Corporation carried out their plans in secret. For many years American investors know more about this natural gas drilling project than residents. They had no intention whatsoever of seeking dialogue with the people, or else they would have told us back in 2006.

But they choose silence instead and went ahead with their plans. About two years ago we saw them engaged in preliminary drilling and testing, we saw them building waste pits 200 meters from town, we saw them with their trucks, all these foreigners coming to a place where they did not belong.

So we started digging and we uncovered the truth, which in these internet days is easy to do: they really wanted to drill us and build a desulfurization plant.

Although the people and most local mayors knew nothing, some higher-up politicians did, and chose to stay silent, either for personal gain or just because they lacked the courage to stand up to Big Oil from the USA.

Thus, most - but not all - of the permits had been given. It was late, but not too late for us to work on stopping the Forest Oil Corporation and to put pressure on these lackluster politicians, and boy did we.

It has been two years of protests, of rebuttals, of letter writing, of independent scientists trying to explain to people why drilling Bomba is a bad idea, of us nagging our politicians and uncovering their wrong-doings.

We debunked every false statement the Forest Oil Corporation claimed on their environmental impact report. The church spoke up against them, merchants and tourism operators, school children and canoeing associations.

We told everyone about the way they treated Mr. James Mc Allen, donating him their radioactive waste without telling him about it, and how he got cancer most likely thanks to the Forest Oil Corporation.

We all came together to say no these bullies who give America a bad name.

Finally, the Forest Oil Corporation had no choice: if they wanted to save their project they had to come out and try to assuage us in person.

That is how Mr. Klein flew in to Bomba, from Houston.

The entire town was covered in signs and pickets saying no to the Forest Oil Corporation. The townhall was packed with people who wanted nothing else but to be left alone and to be who they have been for generations.

We did not believe one word Mr. Klein and his friends had to say.

They had their own interpreters and spoke English to us.

What arrogance. You want to drill us and can't even speak Italian? They probably thought they could sugar-coat answers and try to manipulate the truth - which they did try.

Thankfully, people in the audience knew English better than their interpreter, and people demanded translations be accurate.

Finally, after a lot of give and take, the Forest Oil Corporation had to admit that this desulfurization plant was going to be the largest of its type on the planet, and that the only other comparable one was located in the ... Texas desert 500 miles from the nearest town!

Now, how can you possible compare the Texas desert with a sleepy Italian village tucked in a verdant valley and where the closest homes would be about 200 meters from the refinery? Did they even know that according to their own calculations, the plant's exhaust would be beyond legal limits and end up directly into peoples' home?

The Forest Oil Corporation tried to tell us that their methods were "natural" - and what exactly about oil drilling is natural? - but they were booed and people were upset. The mayors of Altino, Bomba, Pizzoferrato, Gessopalena, Torricella Peligna and Bomba itself said no.

Later the Forest Oil Corporation themselves had to admit that they had never experienced such strong opposition from the people in their 95 year history.

All of this from a tiny Italian village!

The people won. Our "maybe" higher-ups politicians have no choice but say the final no and they have already pledged to do so.

A party is planned on August 8th 2011.