European Commission Unveils Shale Gas Guidelines

The European Commission adopted a Recommendation aiming to ensure that proper environmental and climate safeguards are in place for “fracking” – the high-volume hydraulic fracturing technique used notably in shale gas operations. The Recommendation should help all Member States wishing to use this practice address health and environmental risks and improve transparency for citizens. It also lays the ground for a level playing field for industry and establishes a clearer framework for investors.

The Recommendation is accompanied by a Communication that considers the opportunities and challenges of using “fracking”, to extract hydrocarbons. Both documents are part of a wider initiative by the Commission to put in place an integrated climate and energy policy framework for the period up to 2030.

Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said: Shale gas is raising hopes in some parts of Europe, but is also a source of public concern. The Commission is responding to calls for action with minimum principles that Member States are invited to follow in order to address environmental and health concerns and give operators and investors the predictability they need.

Building on existing EU legislation and complementing it where necessary, the Recommendation invites Member States in particular to:

– Plan ahead of developments and evaluate possible cumulative effects before granting licences;

– Carefully assess environmental impacts and risks;

– Ensure that the integrity of the well is up to best practice standards;

– Check the quality of the local water, air, soil before operations start, in order to monitor any changes and deal with emerging risks;

– Control air emissions, including greenhouse gas emissions, by capturing the gases;

– Inform the public about chemicals used in individual wells, and

– Ensure that operators apply best practices throughout the project.

The Commission will continue facilitating the exchange of information with Member States, industry and civil society organisations on the environmental performance of shale gas projects.

Press Release, January 22, 2014

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