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Bulgaria backs off on shale gas, withdraws Chevron permit
by Staff Writers
Sofia (AFP) Jan 17, 2012

Bulgaria reversed on Tuesday plans to start shale gas exploration as it withdrew a five-year permit for test drilling that had been granted to the US oil giant Chevron, the government press office said.

The government cited "the lack of sufficient assurances that the commonly used shale gas drilling method of hydraulic fracturing or 'fracking' can guarantee environmental safety," to explain its decision.

The cabinet decided last June to grant Chevron a permit to explore and eventually develop shale gas deposits in a huge 4,398-square-kilometre (1,698-square-mile) field near Novi pazar, in northeastern Bulgaria.

The deal had not been officially signed but already faced massive protests in recent months from environmentalists, who called for the government to impose a moratorium on fracking for shale gas in the country.

The method, which uses high pressure injections of water, sand and chemicals to blast through rock and release oil and gas trapped inside, is widely used in the United States.

But opponents have slammed it as potentially harmful for the environment, raising concerns it could contaminate drinking water.

Bulgaria, which depends almost totally on Russian natural gas deliveries via Ukraine, saw shale gas as a way of diversifying supplies.

The country's reserves are estimated between 300 billion and one trillion cubic metres (392 billion - 1.3 trillion cubic yards) of gas, Energy Minister Traicho Traikov said, citing data from energy companies.

Vehement opposition to the deal however prompted parliamentarians to start debating this week a moratorium on shale gas exploration until environmental guarantees are introduced in the existing legislation.

Parliament was expected to review the moratorium on Wednesday.

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French court orders Total to pay 300,000 euro fine over leak
Saint Nazaire, France (AFP) Jan 17, 2012 - A French court ordered energy giant Total to pay a 300,000 euro ($382,000) fine Tuesday for pollution caused by an oil leak in the Loire river at its Donges refinery in western France.

The incident in March 2008 saw 500 tonnes of oil leak from the refinery, including 180 tonnes into the Loire estuary.

Total faced three charges: leaking oil into groundwater or the sea, damaging the local environment and improper use of its facilities. The court upheld the first two charges but not the third.

Prosecutors had urged the 300,000 euro fine, accusing Total of negligence in the incident.

The court also ordered Total to pay 100,000 euros to regional authorities and 20,000 euros to two environmental groups, the Bird Protection League and France Nature Environment, in moral damages.

The court however rejected a request from local associations for Total to pay compensation for environmental damage.


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Iran warns Saudi a oil sanctions debate deepens
Tehran (AFP) Jan 17, 2012
Iran warned Saudi Arabia on Tuesday to rethink an offer to make up for oil lost to world markets as a result of threatened curbs on its exports as diplomats said an EU embargo may be in force by July. Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi urged Riyadh to "reflect" on its pledge to use its spare capacity to compensate for any reduction in Iran's oil sales that results from US-led efforts to tight ... read more

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