The European Commission has recently adopted a Recommendation aiming to ensure that adequate environmental and climate safeguards are in place for ‘fracking’, the high-volume hydraulic fracturing technique used primarily in shale gas operations. For Member States planning to use fracking, the Recommendation should assist them to address health and environmental risks, and improve transparency for EU citizens. It will also contribute to providing a level playing field for industry and establishing a clearer framework for investors. Read more…
The Recommendation builds on existing European Union legislation and invites Member States to consider a set of principles to address environmental risks and allay public concern. It encourages Member States to plan ahead regarding developments in exploring or exploiting shale gas, diligently assess the environmental impacts and risks, and ensure the integrity of any well satisfies best practice standards. Checking the quality of the local water, air and soil before operations commence, controlling air emissions and informing the public on the chemicals used in particular wells are also encouraged.
The Commission will monitor the application of the Recommendation through a publicly accessible scorecard, which will compare the situation across Member States. Member States that choose to employ the fracking technique for hydrocarbons exploration or production should apply the minimum principles by 28 July 2014. They are then invited to inform the Commission on the measures that have been implemented on an annual basis, and must do so for the first time by December 2014.
There is limited experience of fracking on a large scale and at high intensity in the EU. To date, activities have focused primarily on low-volume operations in some conventional and tight gas reservoirs, mostly in vertical wells. The adopted Recommendation aims to address the environmental and health risks associated with further testing of the practice in Europe.
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