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Civil society turns to OECD over hydraulic fracturing in Slovenia

Ljubljana, 12 November (STA) - Several civil initiatives turned to the OECD over the plans of the British oil and gas exploration company Ascent Resources for hydraulic fracturing in eastern Slovenia. The move comes after the company announced it would demand damages from Slovenia for delays in obtaining a permit for the controversial gas extraction project.

The civil initiatives and organisations filed a complaint on Tuesday with the Slovenian and British national contact points for the OECD guidelines for multinational enterprises, demanding that Ascent Resources fully adhere to the guidelines.

"Given the gravity of the potential harmful effects of hydraulic fracturing adhering to the guidelines could very well mean that Ascent Resources will have to stop these activities immediately," said Lidija Živčič of NGO Focus, one of the 17 participating organisations and initiatives.

They believe Ascent Resources has in many aspects not adhered to the guidelines on corporate social responsibility, especially when it comes to the contribution to sustainable development, as hydraulic fracturing has been found to have multiple negative effects on local environment, people's health and the climate.

According to the civil initiatives, Ascent Resources also violated those guidelines by avoiding the legal constraints and claiming that hydraulic fracturing would not affect the environment.

"Ascent Resources also violated OECD guidelines through inconsistent implementation of due diligence measures and measures to minimise risks, but also by not demanding corporate social responsibility from its affiliate and contractors in Slovenia."

The NGOs claim that this is the first case of a complaint to the national contact point of OECD in Slovenia. "We expect the OECD to recognise the gravity of the violations and demand from the company to strictly implement the guidelines even if that meant Ascent Resources has to stop its fracking activities in Slovenia," Živčič said.

Operating in a joint venture with Geoenergo, which is co-owned by the Slovenian state-controlled energy companies Petrol and Nafta Lendava, the UK company wants to extract gas on a large scale in Petišovci in east Slovenia despite much controversy and problems in obtaining environmental permits.

The company announced this summer it would demand EUR 50 million in damages from Slovenia for delays in obtaining a permit to develop the Petišovci gas field.

It also plans to lodge an investment treaty arbitration claim under the Energy Charter Treaty.

It decided for the move after the Environment Ministry upheld a decision of the Environment Agency that an environmental impact assessment and a separate environmental permit are necessary before the project could start because the location of the gas wells was close to water sources and agricultural land.

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