shale gas

Last week saw the publication of the European Commission’s report reviewing the effectiveness of the EU approach to shale gas. The report focuses on a 2014 recommendation calling for minimum principles for shale gas. Member States were invited to follow these principles to address environmental risks posed by high-volume hydraulic fracturing ("fracking"). The report seeks to review how successful the 2014 recommendation has been and which Members States have followed the guidance.

The European Union’s executive, the European Commission has published its 2014 work programme and priorities. The Commission has placed promoting growth and jobs at the heart of the programme. It has argued initiatives proposed at European level should support economic recovery and job creation and tackle the social consequences of the financial crisis. The Commission also stresses that Europe’s challenges also go beyond the economy and that EU action is needed to promote environmental standards.

In a speech delivered on 21 October Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik has spoken in favour of a European strategy for shale gas. Potočnik argued that because of the lack of adequate legislation and proper risk management there was a need for the commission to act. The Commission has concluded that there is a case for a set of common general principles and measures, much along the lines of the ones proposed in the Golden Rules of the International Energy Agency.

The European Parliament has proposed that exploration and hydraulic fracturing extraction activities for unconventional fossil fuels should be subject to environmental impact studies, in adopting an amendment to existing EU legislation. MEPs also suggest measures to prevent conflicts of interest and to ensure that the public is informed and consulted. The vote means lead MEP Andrea Zanoni (ALDE, IT) has been given a mandate to negotiate a first-reading agreement with EU ministers. The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive applies to both public and private projects.

The IES has published a journal investigating the environmental legislation emanating from the EU. It explores key questions over shale gas, the proposed Soil Framework Directive, implementation of EU law, and political and business opinion about the EU in the UK. The publication was produced with the help of ENEP and can be downloaded HERE.