Maria Rita D’Orsogna is Abruzzo’s and perhaps Italy’s greatest environmental blogger. Born to Abruzzesi parents in the Bronx, who both returned to live in Lanciano (CH), Maria is a physicist who now lives in Santa Monica, California where she is a Math Professor at California’s State University at Northridge. She regularly visits and supports the region by spearheading the NoOilAbruzzo environmental campaign which has led her to become known as the Erin Brokovich of Abruzzo, nominated for an Ocean Hero Award and who became Ambassador of Nature to the region’s parks in 2012.
Six years ago the NoOilCampaign defeated the proposed Ombrina Mare oil platform which proposed that multiple wells and a desulphurisation plant be placed just 6 km (3.7 miles) between the port of Ortona and San Vito. The London based Mediterranean Oil and Gas company has re-applied for the Ombrina Mare permit, outlining in its re-application, 5 oil rigs and a FPSO, a Floating Production, Storage and Offloading Unit.
1. How long do oil companies need to wait in Italy before they make a repeat drilling application that has already been denied?
I can no longer give you a definitive answer! After the first application was refused, there was a lot that went on behind the scenes and the Italian senate simply changed the law in an uncharacteristic speedy manner.
2. Abruzzo’s low grade oil requires extra treatments to make it usable. Are there any areas in Italy that have higher grade oil that which when refined has less environmental impact?
Essentially the higher quality oil that needs less treatment has already all been extracted across Italy, there may be pockets of better quality oil but the majority of it is so low grade that it still requires extra refining through multiple treatments to make it a usable product.
3. Abruzzo is suffering in the current climate. Is there any economic justification for this plant in the sense of local employment or young people learning trades, etc?
Oil companies are renowned for bringing in external people who already have the necessary know-how and required skills rather than training locals. The onshore project we most recently defeated was going to employ 30 people, offshore the employment opportunities will be less.The negative long-term impact on family fishing companies and local small to medium size companies who rely on tourism will outweigh any fiscal advantage or short-term jobs created. Basilicata where oil extraction went ahead still remains one of Italy’s poorest regions.
4. What is your biggest concern with the proposed Ombrina Mare?
That this will be the beginning of a series of petroleum infrastructure that runs the 90 mile stretch of Abruzzo’s coastline. Other permits are in their infancy along our coast and defeating Ombrina would send a very strong signal to other companies.
Each different part of the petroleum business pollutes the environment; particularly worrying is when this is so close to the shoreline. The local community will not receive benefits and the region will change from being known as Italy’s green heart to its dirty oil district.
5. What is being done locally to counter this application?
The regional government was informed at the date of application on the 30th May and issued a statement on 27th July 2014. Abruzzo’s senators Giovanni Legnini and Stefania Pezzopane, belong to the same party as the prime minister, Matteo Renzi and occupy prominent positions in his government but neither have individually commented on this re-application.
The NoOilAbruzzo campaign has contacted the region and its provincial offices, a few municipalities, the 5 star movement, and I have been personally blogging detailing how people should work in preventing this application. We’re unaware of any local delegation lobbying Rome to date.
6. How visible will the platform be when lying on the nearby beaches?
If the go-ahead is given the 5 wells will be located just 6 km from from San Vito’s shoreline. A floating production storage and offloading unit will be where the desulphurisation occurs. This one will be 300 metres long and for obvious safety reasons it will be illuminated 24 hours a day so it will be visible to tourists on nearby beaches.
7. Would you swim in the sea if this is given the go-ahead?
No I wouldn’t swim in that stretch of water, I wish I had more time to to enjoy the seaside and experience the beauty of other parts of Abruzzo, but I am too busy fighting oil and gas when I visit.
8. What examples are there in Abruzzo of renewable energy? Have they been profitable?
60% of Abruzzo’s electricity comes from renewable sources: water, the sun and the wind, yet currently, only 7 percent of Italy’s power comes from renewable sources.
Renewable energy has been such a boon in towns like Tocco da Casauria in the region, who recently featured in a NY Times energy article. The town makes money from electricity production and has no local taxes or fees for services like waste removal. Despite the town wining international environmental awards for renewable energy, its mayor said, “We’ve gotten lots of kudos from outside, but people here care more that we now have money to fill potholes.”
The NoOilAbruzzo campaign and I believe the government should be emulating this sustainable model rather than passing laws to make it possible for the likes of Mediterranean Oil and Gas and similar oil companies to enter Abruzzo and detrimentally leave it poorer as has happened in Basilicata.
If you would like to help protect Ortona and San Vito and Abruzzo, please download this word document letter sign it, scan it and email it to Maria by the 29 July at firstname.lastname@example.org who will forward it to the correct Italian offices.