Opponents of hydraulic fracturing in the US take note and inspiration: Bulgaria has just banned fracking.
Business Week reports, by a vote of of 166-6 lawmakers there voted against fracking, creating a ban on the natural gas extraction technique for "an indefinite period of time...valid for the whole territory of the country, including the Black Sea territorial waters."
Violators of the ban face the Bulgarian equivalent of a $65 million fine—which in the scheme of the fossil fuel industry's cash flow really isn't that much.
The story really could end there (hurray!) but there's a twist in it, that while I don't want to read too much into it, does further illustrate the sort of close ties between US industry and government in promoting the interests of both overseas—as well as illustrating how the US (as well as other nations, it should be said) talk about the wonders of globalized free trade without national barriers, while at the same time pushing their national industries.
The fracking ban deals a blow to Chevron, which had hoped to explore for natural gas in Bulgaria. US Ambassador to Bulgaria James Warlick told Bulgarian television, "Chevron could provide millions in investments in Bulgaria and create jobs. Chevron has no other interests in Bulgaria besides shale gas and would be forced to leave the country if its opportunities are curbed."
Perhaps the Bulgarian television station couldn't get a Chevron spokesperson in time for broadcast and the ambassador was the next best thing. But whatever the reason, the close as siblings relationship between US government and corporate interests is notable—if anyone needed reminding.
Bulgaria becomes the second nation in Europe, and indeed the second nation in the world, to ban fracking. France was the first.