The first court hearing in the lawsuit against shale gas exploration, filed by an NGO for residents of four villages in Romania’s Vaslui county against American group Chevron starts today, September 23, 2014, at the Iasi Appeal Court.The judges should decide whether exploration drilling for shale gas is legal in Romania, but the court will first hear the two parties.The case against shale gas exploration was filed by a non-governmental organization NGO in Bucharest, which represents the residents in four villages in Vaslui county who are opposing exploration drills by Chevron near their villages.Chevron has the legal approvals from state and local authorities to start exploration, but locals have been opposing it. Locals in the village of Pungesti as well as environment activists initiated large protests against Chevron and its shale gas operations, last year. Some of these protests turned violent. In May this year, Chevron started the exploration drillings near Pungesti.Two other Romanian courts, one in Suceava and one in Timis, have similar cases to rule on.Shale gas exploration is controversial in Romania, similarly to elsewhere in the world. On the one hand, large companies, such as Chevron, are saying that Romania has large reserves of such gas which could cover internal gas consumption for tens of years. On the other hand, environment activists and local communities are opposing shale gas operations due to the expected negative effects to the environment and to the communities in the vicinity of such gas explorations.