A new report entitled “Fracking – Business as Usual” argues that the EU’s fracking guidelines, which were introduced in 2014, lack the ability to force member states to even make minimal changes to their shale gas regulations while heavily relying on self-monitoring.
As a result, the report – jointly developed by Friends of the Earth Europe and Food & Water Europe – says member states are exploiting the weaknesses of the Recommendation and are failing to take adequate precautionary steps against the potential risks of shale gas, including publishing the chemicals used, safely disposing of fracking waste-water, and liability for abandoned oil and gas wells.
The report has found that the recommendations rely heavily on self-regulation by the fracking industry and while only Poland, Germany, and the UK have attempted to develop legal structures to govern shale exploration in response to the EU Recommendation, in none of the cases do the implemented measures fulfil the principles set out in the Recommendation.
The potential risks involved in shale exploration are not clearly defined in the guidelines and the implementation process of risk assessments, monitoring and enforcement is poorly executed. As a result, the principles they do introduce are often very industry-friendly, undermining the transparency and legitimacy of the industry.
Also, while the shale industry has often argued that additional regulations would add costs to already expensive operations, the International Energy Agency suggests that compliance with key environmental mitigation measures would add just 7 percent to the overall cost of drilling and completing a shale gas well.
Commenting on the report’s findings, Antoine Simon, shale gas campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe, said: “The European Commission and EU Member States lack the political will and ability to strictly regulate the fracking industry. With mounting evidence about the negative impacts of fracking in the US and growing recognition of the long-term risks, we believe that the precautionary principle should be front and centre in decision-making on fracking in Europe. Relying on industry monitoring its own impact is like putting the fox in charge of the hen house.”
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