EU wants common rules for shale gas 'fracking'

Jan 17, 2014
A general view of a site where energy company IGas has permission to carry out exploratory drilling for shale gas at Barton Moss in Manchester on January 13, 2014

The European Commission wants EU member states to accept common environment and health rules if they use controversial 'fracking' to develop shale gas resources.

A document prepared for the Commission's 2030 Energy and Climate Package due Wednesday recognises the importance of the revolution, which has driven US down sharply, but also recommends strong regulation.

"Experts agree that shale gas extraction leads to higher cumulative environmental risks and impacts compared to conventional ," said the draft document, seen by AFP on Friday.

If such "environmental and health risks, lack of transparency and legal uncertainties remain unaddressed, public concerns will persist," it said.

Accordingly, it recommended a series of measures the 28 EU member states to follow if they wanted to develop shale gas.

For example, they should "ensure that a strategic environmental assessment is carried out" before project approval, to gauge the risk to other resources, such as water supplies.

The public should also be "informed of chemicals used in fracking," it said.

Environmental reporting should be transparent, it added.

Members of the Greens/European Free Alliance group hold banners reading "stop fracking" before a vote in a plenary session of the European parliament on two initiative reports on shale gas, in Strasbourg, eastern France, on November 21, 2012

The recommendations are at this stage non-binding but the Commission said it would "closely monitor" their implementation and encouraged member states to adopt them as best practice.

It said it will report again in 2015 and at that point could "decide to put forward legislative proposals."

Fracking involves the injection of chemicals and water under very high pressure to fracture shale rock formations deep underground and so release the gas and oil they contain.

Widely used in the United States, it has been heralded as an "energy revolution", helping put the US economy back on track with US companies benefitting from much cheaper energy prices.

That has sparked calls, notably from Britain, for the EU to adopt light-touch regulation on shale gas but others such as France oppose fracking given the environmental concerns.

The Commission package due next week will replace its current programme which lays down a target for a 20 percent reduction compared with 1990 levels in by 2020.

In addition, EU member states are supposed to source 20 percent of their energy from renewable sources and achieve a 20 percent energy efficiency gain by the same date.

The European Parliament's environmental committee wants a 40-30-40 package but this looks ambitious, with member states focused on getting a economy back on track rather than add to business costs.

Against this backdrop, the future of shale gas is expected to be a major bone of contention in fixing the 2030 guidelines.

Explore further: UK urges EU to cut red tape and clear way for shale

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Brussels says no plans for EU-wide shale gas ban

Jul 16, 2013

The European Union has no plans to impose a blanket ban on hydraulic fracturing, a controversial shale gas extraction method, but it will lay out rules to address environmental concerns, a top EU official ...

EU leaders look to energy for growth boost

May 22, 2013

EU leaders, desperate to give growth a boost, target energy policy Wednesday amid concerns a US-led revolution in shale oil and gas development will reshape the global economy and leave Europe far behind.

Recommended for you

Dead floppy drive: Kenya recycles global e-waste

12 hours ago

In an industrial area outside Kenya's capital city, workers in hard hats and white masks take shiny new power drills to computer parts. This assembly line is not assembling, though. It is dismantling some ...

New paper calls for more carbon capture and storage research

17 hours ago

Federal efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions must involve increased investment in research and development of carbon capture and storage technologies, according to a new paper published by the University of Wyoming's ...

Coal gas boom in China holds climate change risks

22 hours ago

Deep in the hilly grasslands of remote Inner Mongolia, twin smoke stacks rise more than 200 feet into the sky, their steam and sulfur billowing over herds of sheep and cattle. Both day and night, the rumble ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Squirrel
5 / 5 (1) Jan 18, 2014
Public concerns are important. That is why the EU is made up of democratically elected nation states.

If the EU makes regulation over shale gas--an issue of local (some countries lack the right geography, others face issues both geographical and water usage that do not apply to others) not European wide relevance--then why vote in national elections--better lobby in Brussels--where decisions are made--than waste time at the polling station?
vlaaing peerd
not rated yet Feb 21, 2014
The European electoral system (apart from the UK) is somewhat complicated. There are a wide range of political ideologies varying from religious, green, socialistic, liberal, and many more. It's not uncommon to have a 2~3 party coalition with 10 parties in the opposition.

Though you might expect it would be more specific, one can not always vote for a party that supports your view on i.e. healthcare and i.e. fracking at the same time. Besides that the vast number of coalitions doesn't always ensure a party's viewpoint makes it through.

So petitions, polling and also lobbying is a very common way to get attention on certain subjects. So for many of those issues you have to stay politically active to keep the pressure on at your own government.

In the US you in general vote for 1 of the 2 parties and you know quite specifically what the democrats or republicans will do about it for the next 4 years.