No change to Germany’s fracking legislation – minister says

The Bundestag at Berlin, Germany
Source: DollarPhotoClub

German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks dismissed rumours, reported by Der Spiegel, that Germany might relax the fracking ban imposed in 2012 – portal EurActiv reports.

In an article published over the weekend, Der Spiegel suggested that trial drilling might be allowed if expert committees made up of at least six scientists showed no concerns. It also suggested that the ruling banning hydraulic fracturing above the depth of 3,000 metres might be lifted.

Measures on fracking are currently being debated in the Bundestag. “Once these agreements are concluded, the draft law will go into consultations among the departments and then it will soon be ripe for the cabinet and be approved,” explained deputy government spokesperson Christiane Wirtz on Monday.

Yet, in an interview with Deutschlandfunk radio, Ms Hendricks was quite adamant that no changes to the laws governing hydraulic fracturing are imminent.

“In general, fracking with environmentally toxic substances is prohibited,” she said. “That is also what we determined in the coalition agreement and this ban absolutely does not expire.”

The German government’s expert commission has the possibility to express its opinion, she explained, but it in no way can directly influence the legislation. “A recommendation is made on the basis of science and technology but it is not binding in any way. It can declare a recommendation for fracking or it can do the opposite. But water law authorities in the regions are the ones who decide whether or not to permit fracking. The commission does not change anything in this regard,” a statement from the Environment Ministry read.

Having said that, Ms Hendricks acknowledged that the decision is not final. “If, at an unforeseeable time, it can be scientifically proven that [fracking] is completely harmless, then it may no longer be permanently forbidden.”

This view was further supported by the Environment Ministry which said: ““The state of science and research is not static; it is constantly evolving. That is why it would be completely wrong to set in stone such a ban on commercial fracking. That is neither how the state of science nor technology work in a democracy.”

The current fracking ban, which according to the German government will not be reviewed before 2021, applies at a depth shallower than 3000 meters and the testing of technology is permitted if the fracking liquid won’t endanger the groundwater.

It is estimated that Germany may hold shale gas reserves between 1.3 and 2.3 trillion cubic metres, which at best should cover Germany’s energy needs for approximately 13 to 27 years.

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