The hydropower projects would damage two national parks and twenty Natura2000 sites, and were
all exempted from environmental impact assessment requirements in December 2022. Several of
these projects have already been found illegal by the Romanian justice system, so the contested
Government decision is yet another move to legalise them.
State-owned utility Hidroelectrica has been attempting to build a series of hydropower plants for
several decades already. All of the projects covered by the Emergency Ordinance are 20 to 45 years
old, but the Parliament and Government have attempted to revive them in recent years.
The Emergency Ordinance entered into force on 14 December 2022 and, although still not approved
as law by the Parliament (2), it produced legal effect immediately after its adoption. Already on 28
March 2023, the Ministry of Environment in Romania exempted (3) six of the nine hydropower
plants from requiring a screening decision for the environmental impact assessment (EIA) process.
In addition, the Government intends to use public EU funds for these projects, through the
REPowerEU chapter of its recovery plan, which conflicts with EU rules to ensure that recovery
projects fulfil so-called ‘do no significant harm’ criteria.
Bankwatch Romania argues that exempting such projects from the requirement to carry out an
environmental impact assessment is allowed only under very exceptional and clearly-defined
circumstances. ‘But the government vaguely argues that the ordinance is needed due to “energy
security”, failing to elaborate how much energy is missing compared to what is needed, over what
timeframe, why exactly those specific projects are the key ones which are needed, why applying the
EIA procedure would adversely affect this goal, and why energy security could not be achieved by
other means instead. It does not explain exactly what the emergency is, nor when the plants would
be expected to come online and help remedy the situation’, they state.
Ioana Ciuta, Bankwatch Romania — ‘These projects belong in history books; they have not proved
their worth in the decades that they have been around. If the government was honest about security
of supply, it would have needed to prioritise measures to make a difference much more quickly, such
as energy savings and installing rooftop solar and heat pumps, as well as low-impact utility scale
projects outside of sensitive areas. It’s hard to believe anyone would knowingly choose to destroy
nature, when we so desperately need it for our water, food and climate regulation’.
The European Commission initiated an infringement procedure against Romania already in 2015 (4)
over small hydropower projects built in protected areas, but it still has not been concluded. The
destruction potential of the current Emergency Ordinance should encourage the Commission to
speed up this case. Bankwatch Romania expects the Commission to open an investigation into the
Emergency Ordinance as soon as possible.
Ioana Ciuta, president of Bankwatch Romania,
Notes for editors
(1) The list of nine hydro projects in Emergency Ordinance 175/2022:
1. The hydropower development of the Jiu River on the Livezeni-Bumbești sector
2. The hydropower development of the Olt river gorge on the Cornetu-Avrig sector
3. Pașcani hydropower development on the Siret river
4. Răstolița hydropower development
5. Surduc-Siriu hydropower development
6. The hydropower development of the Siret River on the Cosmești-Movileni sector
7. The hydrotechnical and energy complex Cerna-Motru-Tismana, stage II
8. The hydropower development of the Olt River on the Izbiceni – Danube sector. Islaz hydroelectric plant
9. Cerna Belareca hydropower development