Tuesday, April 5, 2016

To all dual citizens of Italy: please vote SI on the April 17th referendum

Dear friends,

my name is Maria D'Orsogna. I am Bronx born, I lived in Italy for 15 years and am now California based. I am a physicist and professor of mathematics. I am also one of the drivers behind the April 17th referendum you have received a ballot for in your mailboxes.
Please vote SI!

The vote is in regards to offshore drilling.  In particular, it is to deny that oil and gas leases be allowed in Italian coastal waters without time limitations. Currently, an oil and gas lease may "live" forever, or as it says "per la durata della vita utile del giacimento".

Passing of the referendum would restrict the life of these leases to 30 years. After that, as I understand it, oil and gas companies would have to reapply from the start if they wanted to continue drilling, or shut down.

Italian law allows only for the repeal of existing legal texts, so by voting YES (SI) you are agreeing to *repeal* the text where eternity is granted to oil and gas companies.

I know it sounds complicated, but YES (SI) means no to unlimited temporal length of oil and gas leases, and NO keeps the status quo where they have the right to drill until there is no oil left.

I humbly ask you to vote YES.

Italian law also stipulates that in order for any referendum to be valid, at least 50% +1 of the votes be turned in, so it is very important to reach this target and that everyone cast their votes.


For almost ten years I have devoted much of my life to combating oil companies that would like to drill Italy - onshore, offshore. It all started when the oil people decided to drill near the little town I used to live in as a child, Ortona, Abruzzo. I moved there at the age of 7 after having lived in NY.

I learnt about oil and gas plans almost by chance in 2007 and could not absolutely accept it. It started as a small, almost impossible battle. How could I, from California, stop Italy's biggest oil company from drilling and building a refinery in Ortona? But against all odds, we won.  In time, we learnt that oil and gas facilities were being planned for the entire country, and I became some sort of scientific guidance and activist leader in fighting oil companies throughout the country.  Sometimes they have called me the Erin Brockovich of Italy.  I have been sued multiple times, but luckily won all of the lawsuits against me.

Currently there are offshore plans to drill Sicily, Sardinia, Puglia, Marche, Abruzzo. And believe it or not, even the Venice lagoon.  Some leases were proposed as close as one or two miles from shore in places that are spectacularly beautiful.  I truly cannot imagine who in their right mind would ever think of drilling them. Other onshore drilling plans are in works as well.

After almost ten years of community organization and resistance, finally 9 governors decided to propose this referendum. They are governors from coastal regions. All of them are either worried about their communities or pressured by residents, the vast majority of which are vehemently opposed to oil drilling.

Six oil related propositions were presented for approval.

As you can imagine the oil companies did not like this in the least and lobbied and pressured the government to somehow avoid any referendum, and most of all any public discussion of the topic.

Because of corruption, politicians in Rome are petroleum people's best friend, and together they tried to stop this referendum. They mostly succeeded, but not quite.  Of the original six propositions only one made it to the ballot.

The one in your envelopes.

The government is now trying to stop this vote by telling people to desert the vote, so that the 50%+1 target is not hit.

The referendum will cost 300 million euros. This is the normal cost of an election. Because it is a lot of money we activists asked in all possible ways to lump the vote with the June elections, when mayoral contests will be held nationwide. That way, instead of people voting twice (in April for oil and in June for mayors) there would have been only one election and we could have saved 300 million euros.

But the government refused: 1. they hope people will not care enough to show up at the polls just for this one oil proposition in April and 2. They can now blame activists for squandering public money.

Politicians are also trying to spread fears in the population that stopping oil and gas would create unemployment, raise prices at the pump, increase our reliance on foreign oil. You have heard it before, I am sure.

Matteo Renzi himself, the prime minister, is saying that the vote is useless. Can you imagine, a prime minister telling people not to vote!
Why? Because the oil lobby is ever powerful. You may have heard that the Italian Minister for the Economy, Federica Guidi, just resigned because of an oil related scandal: she was fast tracking oil projects so that her boyfriend would get 2 1/2 million euros worth of contracts.

So oil and politics go hand in hand in Italy. It usually does not matter which party is governing the nation, they are all connected and friends. Usually they don't know and don't care about the communities that will be affected. Indeed, over the past few weeks another scandal has hit the region of Basilicata, where oil companies were hiding toxic waste, cooking their emission spreadsheets, and generally not being honest about the environmental damage they were generating.

So it is important that we participate and let it be known that we are done with the fossil fuel industry coming into our seas and our little towns.

Please vote SI.


This a link on "Ombrina" one of the main oil drilling projects that we were able to stop;

This is a bit more about me;

and here

and here

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