open letter

Open Letter from Maria R. D’Orsogna, PhD to Croatia's Ministry of Economy


Dear Minister Ivan Vrdoljak,
Dear Barbara Dorić, acting President of the Croatian Hydrocarbon Agency,
Dear representatives of the Croatian government

We have recently become aware of Croatia’s first granting of offshore leases in and around the Adriatic coast of the country. The area to be opened to oil and gas companies covers a total of roughly 37,000 square kilometers divided into 29 blocks. No less than thirty international oil and gas firms will be involved in a massive drilling program that will irreversibly change the Croatian coast for decades to come. The plan calls for a five-year exploration phase followed by a twenty-five year production phase. And that will just be the beginning.

Your ministry and your government seem concerned about Croatia’s hydrocarbon potential and in recent years, have moved to facilitate hydrocarbon investment by promoting a ``friendlier” regulatory and fiscal framework and by streamlining bureaucracy in favor of oil and gas companies. What about the people of Croatia?

We urge the Croatian government to halt any and all drilling activities in the Croatian Adriatic. In our opinion turning the eastern side of the Adriatic into a massive oil field will be a detrimental, fundamental change to the core essence of Croatia in addition to threatening the health of its people, its seas and its thriving tourism industry.

Indeed, the presence of petroleum infrastructure at sea -- with its oil rigs, pipelines to and from the coast, and possible onshore or offshore refineries, storage and/or processing ships, ports -- would create unnecessary risks and expose the area to pollution from leaks and spills which are always bound to occur, despite the promises from oil and gas of “high environmental standards”.

The infrastructure will be clearly visible from shore, polluting chemicals will be used, large quantities of waste water and drilling muds will have to be transported and treated onshore, fishing activities will be affected. Oil and gas infrastructure is not at all compatible with the image that Croatia has fought hard to carve for itself over the years: that of a naturalistic haven where tourists from all over Europe and the world come for relaxation and to enjoy its pristine beauty. Furthermore, it is the nature of the oil and gas industry to keep expanding over time: once a foothold is attained, they will inevitably try to become larger, and gobble up more and more land and beauty, until it will all be gone.
The time to stop them is now.

The people who live along the coast of Croatia stand to gain very little in return for the irreversible transformation of their coastline into an industrialized oil-producing site, since the oil will be sold on the open market leaving behind eyesores and a contaminated environment. One just has to look at nearby Italy, and the disasters that oil and gas have caused to cities like Gela, Falconara, Priolo, Augusta, Manfredonia, Porto Marghera. Locations that could have had a sustainable tourism or tertiary economy had they not chosen to develop their oil and gas resources and are now beyond environmental repair. These locations must now deal with skyrocketing cancer rates, high poverty and unemployment levels and an unhealthy environment.

On a larger scale, extracting and burning fossil fuels is one of the main causes of climate change. About 400,000 people gathered in New York in late September asking for change. Our Earth is warming, average temperatures are increasing, ice caps are melting and sea levels are rising. The choices we make today will affect our children and our children’s children.

We also urge Croatian officials to promote a dialogue with other countries that share borders with the Adriatic, and that together Italy, Croatia, Slovenia and Albania, may find a constructive resolution to ban offshore drilling within the entire Adriatic sea, to save its shores, its marine life and its biodiversity for future generations.

So please, for the benefit of the people of Croatia and of the entire planet, do not go forward with the destruction of the Adriatic for what will certainly be short-term gain and long term foolishness.

Maria R. D’Orsogna, PhD

Department of Mathematics, Institute for Sustainability
18111 Nordhoff Avenue, California State University at Northridge
Los Angeles, CA 91330

Department of Biomathematics
621 Charles E Young Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90095