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Environmental Groups Challenge Offshore Gas Exploration by Greece

environmental groups gas exploration
Dolphins in the Gulf of Corinth. Credit: Ocean care/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0

Environmental groups in Greece have challenged the decision to start gas exploration west and southwest of Crete, saying that dangers to the marine environment have not been adequately assessed.

Greenpeace, WWF, and the Pelagos Cetological Research Institute have been attempting to stop exploration activities and made an appeal to the Council of State, Greece’s top Court, which is expected to rule on the case in the near future.

According to a WWF release, the marine areas approved for hydrocarbon exploration are designated as areas of global importance for cetaceans (IMMA). The areas are among the most critical Mediterranean habitats for the Cuvier’s Beaked Whale and the Sperm Whale.

Other threatened species include the Mediterranean monk seal, the stripped dolphin, and the loggerhead sea turtle, WWF says.

environmental groups gas exploration
The areas west and southwest of Crete where Exxon Mobil will conduct surveys for gas. Public Domain

Environmental groups say no study on transportation of gas if found

It also adds that there are serious deficits in the strategic environmental impact study, including the absence of a strategic assessment for one of the most important parts of the program concerning the transportation of hydrocarbons (if deposits are found).

Critics also highlight the potential risk of spills and say the project, if successful, would increase Greece’s use of fossil fuels amid the planet’s climate change crisis.

Responding to concerns about the impact on the environment and marine life, Environment and Energy Minister Kostas Skrekas said last week that the best global practices are being applied and that the environmental legislation of Greece is very strict and will be respected.

Greece began gas exploration starting with seismic surveys last Thursday in offshore areas west and southwest of Crete. The surveys are being conducted by ExxonMobil and partner HelleniQ Energy (formerly ELPE).

An older study by HelleniQ Energy had estimated that potential natural gas reserves could be between seventy to ninety trillion cubic feet and potentially cover fifteen to twenty percent of Europe’s natural gas needs. The most promising areas, however, are also the least explored.

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