Beginning of the fight : 27/04/2016
Fight led by : Linda Maria Koldau
Save Schwedeneck! We say “No” to license to drill on the protected coast of Eckernfoerde Bay (Western Baltic Sea)
Drilling for oil right in a nature reserve? Pipelines and industrial plants in internationally protected biotopes? And all this with the blessing of an environment minister – Dr. Robert Habeck – who is a key player in Germany’s leading environment-oriented party?
This is not a joke. This is an immediate danger to the coast and the Baltic Sea.
Schwedeneck is one of the few German coastal regions with high cliffs, numerous biotopes and several protected species. As part of Eckernfoerde Bay on the Western coast of the Baltic Sea, it belongs to the European NATURA 2000 Fauna-Flora-Habitats (FFH) and thus to an internationally protected nature reserve. Thousands of tourists enjoy the beaches of Schwedeneck every year, many of them coming to the villages of Schwedeneck for surfing, kiting and other water sports. Thousands of people from nearby Kiel (capital city of the German federal state of Schleswig-Holstein) enjoy day trips to and weekends in this untouched nature resort. The local population builds its existence on tourism and organic farming.
All this is now to be sacrificed to the profit mentality of DEA AG, an international oil exploration and production company, with the personal blessing of the environment minister of Schleswig-Holstein, Dr. Robert Habeck.
Habeck, who paradoxically belongs to the “Green Party” (Bündnis 90 / Gruene), has granted DEA the license to exploration and production of hydrocarbons despite a high level expertise from his own governmental department, which concludes that the factual situation of nature and wildlife conservation in Schwedeneck rules out any plans for drilling for oil. There is now the imminent risk that minister Habeck will use his political power to give the final go-ahead for drilling – and this would be the end of Schwedeneck and its natural beaches.
The dangers to Schwedeneck:
When DEA AG indeed starts drilling for oil, the entire region will die. The beaches and holiday resorts will directly border with an industrial plant generating noise and polluting air. Ground and drinking water for the entire region are in immediate danger of long-term exposition to pollution. The local population will be deprived of its means of existence, and their children will grow up in a region with heightened risk for cancer.
Beyond the environmental risks of conventional drilling for oil, there is also the palpable danger that DEA AG will apply fracking (hydraulic fracturing) once the small oil field is exploited. Or would the company build an entire industrial infrastructure with installations of pipelines and a train loading station if they did not have a clear but vested interest in the oil-saturated shale source rock which sits just below the reservoir of oil which DEA is targeting initially...
SFE joins the action group “Haende weg von Schwedeneck” in its appeal to Chancellor Angela Merkel:
Since environment minister Robert Habeck has already several times broken the promises he gave to action groups and regional politicians in several regions in the German state Schleswig-Holstein, we appeal to the Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has the highest authority regarding political actions and decisions in Germany:
“Chancellor Angela Merkel: Make an end to the irresponsible oil drilling policy of environment minister Robert Habeck in Schleswig-Holstein! His policy drastically offends your own energy policy and endangers the environment and living conditions of millions of people in Schleswig-Holstein for decades to come.
We appeal to you, the Federal Chancellor of Germany, since environment minister Robert Habeck has already several times broken his promises regarding transparency and involvement of the local and regional population. In the name of your energy policy and the resolutions of the 2015 Paris UN Climate Conference: Induce minister Habeck to revoke the concessions he personally granted to various oil companies and to deny any further licenses to drill for oil and gas in Schwedeneck and other regions of Schleswig-Holstein!”
Further information (in German): https://haendewegvonschwedeneck.wordpress.com/
Prof. Dr. Linda Maria Koldau
Linda Maria Koldau is professor of Musicology and Cultural History. In 2012, she resigned from her chair at Aarhus University in protest against the disastrous policies in research and teaching that were dictated by the university management. She has since been working as a freelance expert in efficient communication and learning techniques and started in 2015 to build up expertise in complementary veterinarian medicine (in cooperation with the Akademie für Naturheilkunde ATM GmbH Germany); cf. http://www.akademiekoldau.wordpress.com/.
Her latest research project in cultural history was on strategies of coastal protection, combining environmental and economic interests. Since then, she has been focusing on veterinarian medicine and complementary and alternative methods of therapy.
Besides 18 scholarly books, she has published almost 100 scientific articles, numerous articles in national newspapers and several expertises on issues of society, public organization, and policy (in German, English, and Danish). In November 2015 she was founding member of the action group “Hands off Schwedeneck” and has since then been spokeswoman. She lives in Schwedeneck on the Eckernfoerde Bay (Germany) together with her husband, a dog and eight guinea pigs.
Oil Drilling in Schwedeneck – and the Highly Questionable Permissions for Oil Drilling in the State of Schleswig-Holstein (Germany)
1956–2002: Oil production (Wintershall Company) with conventional methods and fracking in Schwedeneck, with altogether 5 incidents that pollute the sea and the soil. Several agricultural fields are no longer arable; until today, at least one field is polluted with drill sludge and insufficiently secured.
2012: The RWE-DEA concern (today DEA) applies for a permission for oil search and oil drilling for the field of Schwedeneck-See. The permission is sent to the LBEG, a federal German department for mining that at that time is not responsible for taking decisions about permissions regarding oil drilling projects in the state of Schleswig-Holstein. Schleswig-Holstein’s Environment Minister Dr. Robert Habeck, who is simultaneously Technical Director of the LBEG, nevertheless carries through the entire permission process with the industry-oriented LBEG.
Oct. 2012: The Schleswig-Holstein Environment Department (that is, Minister Habeck’s own Department) issues an expertise closing with the statement: “We conclude that the interests of environment protection and species conservation rule out any oil drilling in the entire field of Schwedeneck-See” (http://patrick-breyer.de/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Schwedeneck-See/Schwedeneck-See_sw.pdf, p. 36).
March 2013: In striking contradiction to the expertise of his own Department, Environment Minister Habeck grants the permission for oil search and drilling in Schwedeneck.
Habeck simultenaneously grants permissions for oil drilling in five further regions of the state of Schleswig-Holstein. Altogether, one third of the state of Schleswig-Holstein is given away to oil drilling – two years after federal chancellor Angela Merkel announced the decisive change in energy production policy for Germany, declaring the exit from fossil-fuel energy.
September 2013: Environment Minister Habeck proposes and then establishes a state law that officially and legally makes the LBEG the authority for the oil drilling permissions he already has granted.
This retrospective law does, however, not make the entire permission process for Schwedeneck and five other oil drilling fields legal: the permissions were granted by Minister Habeck and the LBEG at a time when this department had no authority to grant such permissions for oil search and drilling Schleswig-Holstein, as has been confirmed by the Scientific Support Service of the Schleswig-Holstein Parliament.
2013–2016: The RWE-DEA concern does not fulfil the legal regulations concerning the actions to be taken after having been granted a permission for oil search. This would make it possible for Environment Minister Habeck to revoke the permission (according to § 18 of the German Mining Law) – which he however refuses to do.
Sept. and Oct. 2015: Several experts in oil drilling, geology, and environmental questions inform the people of Schwedeneck about the immediate dangers that are connected with oil drilling, even without the use of fracking methods: pollution of air, soil and water, landslides and earthquakes, the long-term pollution of the drinking water in the large-scale region around Kiel (capital of Schleswig-Holstein, 15 miles from Schwedeneck).
The dangers are imminent in Schwedeneck due to the earlier phase of oil drilling, which has left altogether 35 boreholes (i.e. risks for hydraulic shortcuts and other leakages), and due to the geological instability of the geotope Schwedeneck Cliffs.
Nov. 2015: Constitution of the action group “Hands Off Schwedeneck” in Schwedeneck, consisting of citizens in Schwedeneck and the surrounding region. Prof. Dr. Linda Maria Koldau becomes spokeswoman for the action group.
25 Jan., 2015: Public constitutional meeting of the action group. Flyers and posters with information about the oil drilling project and its dangers are printed and distributed in Schwedeneck and the surrounding region. In the villages belonging to Schwedeneck, the posters are several times ripped off over night.
The DEA concern (sold by RWE to a Russian oligarch in 2015) sends an unusually rough and impolite mail to spokeswoman Linda Maria Koldau, urging her to give up the plans for an action group, which is called “unnecessary, since DEA considers to return several licenses for oil drilling in Schleswig-Holstein anyway” (mail of DEA press officer Derek Moesche to Linda Maria Koldau, 23 January, 2016). The DEA press officer also calls the major of Schwedeneck, Gustav Otto Jonas, and tries to persuade him to give up the idea of an action group. Jonas’s reaction: “Now more than ever!”
As first public action following its official constitution, the action group sends an Open Letter to Environment Minister Habeck, asking about the inconsistencies in his actions as Environment Minister and urging him to revoke the permission for oil search and drilling in Schwedeneck.
9 Feb., 2016: DEA returns two licenses for the drilling fields Preetz and Plön (regions in Eastern Schleswig-Holstein). The license for Schwedeneck, however, is not returned – which reveals that the mail of the DEA concern was deceptive, since it clearly implied that the return of the Schwedeneck license was imminent. DEA obviously tried to preclude the formation of an obnoxious action group in Schwedeneck.
Feb. and March, 2016: Environment Minister Habeck answers the Open Letter, which in turn is answered by the action group with another Open Letter. In response, Habeck publishes a statement on the web site of his department, in which he calls oil drilling “a relatively environment-friendly form of energy production”. The action group publishes a statement on the web site “Hands off Schwedeneck”, in which Habeck’s contradictions, fallacies and obvious intent to mislead the public are analyzed. Several open questions remain:
- Habeck defends his decision against the expertise of his own Department with the excuse that the LBEG had identified parts of the oil drilling field that allegedly are not protected by environment law, which in turn forced him to grant the permission. He does not explain, though, why the experts in his own Department obviously were mistaken in identifying “the entire field Schwedeneck-See” and why their expertise can be ruled out by the staff of an institution that does not even lie in the state of Schleswig-Holstein.
- The official documentation of the questionable process leading to the permission for oil search and drilling is incomplete – which is against German law. The documentation of the decisive discussion about the size of the oil field and thus the decision to rule out environment protection in favour of the oil industry is missing.
- Habeck persistently denies that oil drilling – even without the fracking technique – has serious consequences for the region in question, including the imminent danger of large-scale pollution. As a politician representing the “Green Party” of Germany, he claims that oil drilling is harmless – despite the palpable and up-to-date evidence of pollution and increased cancer rates from other German regions where oil and gas are being extracted from the underground.
Feb. 2016: A national petition is started on www.change.org, urging Environment Minister Habeck to revoke the permission for oil drilling in Schwedeneck (https://www.change.org/schwedeneck). Within a few days, more than 40.000 people in Germany and several other countries sign the petition.
A first contact with the Surfrider Foundation is established.
10 March 2016: The spokesmen of several action groups in Schleswig-Holstein are invited to a meeting at the Environment Department with Secretary of State Dr. Ingrid Nestle in order to discuss the numerous permissions Environment Minister Habeck has granted to international oil companies for oil drilling in several regions of Schleswig-Holstein. Altogether, one third of the state of Schleswig-Holstein has been given away to oil companies to search for and drill oil.
Nestle and the other four staff members of the Environment Department are obviously not informed about the latest technologies and risks of oil drilling. For the spokesmen of the action group, the two-hour meeting appears to be a waste of time, filled with the Department staff’s attempts to play down the evident dangers to which the affected regions have been exposed due to minister Habeck’s unrestrained practice of granting permissions for oil drilling to international companies.
Interestingly, Secretary of State Ingrid Nestle calls oil drilling “one of the most dangerous and deadly forms of energy production, which has already cost thousands of people their lives”. Upon our question why Minister Habeck – her immediate superior – then officially calls oil drilling “a relatively environment-friendly form of energy production”, Nestle has no answer (after first denying that Habeck ever should have said that – despite the fact that Habeck has published this statement on the web site of the Environment Department).
The action group of Angeln (Northern Schleswig-Holstein) asks the Secretary of State if the oil company Central Anglia has handed in an application for the license to operate in their region (called Sterup). Nestle and her staff members answer with a clear “no”.
31 March, 2016: An official request of a member of the Schleswig-Holstein parliament leads to the revelation that Central Anglia has already been granted the license to operate in Sterup – this happened in September 2015, exactly six months before Secretary of State Ingrid Nestle informed the action groups that an application for such a license had not yet been handed in.
Upon the indignant requests of the action groups, Environment Minister Habeck alleges that he had known nothing about the granting of the license – thus, the LBEG, of which he himself is the Technical Director, obviously has acted without his consent, breaking his promise to the public and to several authorities that the entire process of permission for oil drilling in Sterup would be conducted “with utmost transparency” (promises given in Feb. and Dec. 2014).
The director of the LBEG claims that nothing happens in his house without the knowledge of Robert Habeck. Who of these two does not tell the truth?
Robert Habeck refuses to recall the Sterup license to operate, which has been granted without his knowledge and against his promise to involve the authorities and the population in the region.
After this scandalous process, we know what we can expect for Schwedeneck: Will we at all be informed when DEA hands in their application for the license to operate – and will Habeck carry through the Environmental Impact Assessment prescribed by the law?
9 May, 2016: The action group “Hands Off Schwedeneck” organizes a public panel with Environment Minister Habeck. Spokeswoman Linda Maria Koldau presents the four most urgent questions of the action group and the population of Schwedeneck to the minister:
- Why do you deny the evident dangers of oil drilling to the environment and the affected population?
- Why don’t you – a minister working for the protection of the environment – not use the political leeway that is part of the German Mining Law in order to protect the environment from excessive and dangerous oil drilling? Why do you always act in favour of the oil industry rather than in favour of the environment and the affected population?
- Why do you not keep your promise of transparency and involvement of the population in the affected regions?
- How can you, an Environment Minister and representative of the Green Party, sacrifice one third of the state of Schleswig-Holstein to oil drilling with its immediate dangers to the environment and to us, the affected population? Why do you criticize the Danes for their oil drilling in the North Sea, but give the Baltic Sea away to the same risks and harm to the environment? Why do you criticize farmers for their harmful use of fertilizer, but allow oil companies to pollute our soil and our drinking water?
In the course of the three-hour discussion, Habeck did not answer a single one of these questions. Instead, he proved that he is not willing to discuss any disputable issues, but insists on an industry-friendly interpretation of the German Mining Law, ignoring that this law leaves room for other, more environment-firiendly and democratic interpretations.
As to the petition on www.change.org, he made – more or less explicitly – fun of people in other parts of Germany or even in other parts of the world who believe that they have something to say about environmental policy in Schleswig-Holstein.
To sum it up:
Environment Minister Habeck has proven to be a typical representative of the new political caste that has recently been called arrogant, irresponsible and close to dictators who believe that their votes for one legislative period are a free ticket to act in ways that strikingly offend the rights and the needs of the population who voted for them (cf. https://www.change.org/p/bürgerklage-gegen-ceta/u/16500404?tk=fZSIJ0aViiPUGrhcV7pKg-dKLSispXSkC3cmcod6b6Q&utm_source=petition_update&utm_medium=email).
It is clear that we cannot expect any support from such a politician to save the coast and beaches of Schwedeneck from long-term risks and the imminent danger of pollution through oil drilling. We do uphold our petition against his disastrous environmental policy regarding Schwedeneck and will present it to the chairmen of his party, the German Green Party, in due time.
By Prof. Dr. Linda Maria Koldau, 20 May, 2016
January 2017 : Release of a press release to inform that the critizens' initiative "Hände weg von Schwedeneck" will presents on 24 January 2017 the petition " Save Schwedeneck" the foyer of the Parliamentary Petition Committee to the schleswig-holsteinischen parliament. We ask the Parliament on 24/01/2017, to protect in a perm way the south coast of the bay of Eckernförde (Natura 2000 site of habitat directive) against the greediness of oil companies.
February 2017 : The new drilling law of the federal government, which came into force on 11 February, allows for "fracking" in many parts of Schleswig-Holstein. The only way to prevent drilling is a stricter water protection law that can be adopted by Parliament in Schleswig-Holstein.
Together with 3 other citizens' initiatives in Schleswig-Holstein, we are launching a national initiative to protect the water (sea). For such an initiative, we have to collect 50,000 handwritten signatures (not an Internet action, but handwritten lists) of citizens in Schleswig-Holstein; Then the Parliament is obliged to seriously consider the demand of a better protection of our water. The initiative start with a public press conference of our citizens' initiatives in the Parliament. We want to use the months until the state election in May to raise the issue.
An action under this initiative is a series of events involving the participation of representatives from each party to answer questions related to the protection of oil, fracking and CETA. The first event will take place on March 13th in Schwedeneck. For the popular initiative, emergency means will be used by hanging posters in all Schleswig-Holstein. Only if we are visible, we have a chance to get enough signatures for the popular initiative.
April 2017 : The petitions change.org with respectively more than 84,000 and more than 37,000 supporters provoked an international mobilization. We fought for more than a year against this scandalous project granted to the Environment Minister of Schleswig-Holstein Robert Habeck (party of the Greens). Now the oil company has finished its license: We have succeeded in dissuading them from renewing their licenses and it will no longer extract at Schwedeneck !
History of the actions