Around 60% of the EU population is against fracking, according to European Commission data.
Presumably Members of the European Parliament would have taken this into account when they were due to vote on a proposal to amend the existing EU Environmental Impact Assessment Directive, to take account of fracking.
But at the last minute, the European Parliament postponed the 11 September vote until the next plenary in October. MEPs decided they wanted to hold a plenary debate with representatives from the European Commission and the Lithuanian Presidency of the European Council before voting on the draft changes to the Directive.
The proposed amendment would require environmental impact studies for non-conventional hydrocarbon exploration and extraction projects – ie fracking.
You can contact all six Yorkshire and Humberside MEPs here. You can say something like: you hope that, when the vote that was postponed from 11 September takes place, they will vote in favour of proposed changes to the EU Environmental Impact Assessment Directive, that will require environmental impact studies for non-conventional hydrocarbon exploration and extraction projects. And tell them why you think frackers should have to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment when they want to explore or extract shale gas.
(Only Linda McAven MEP and Rebecca Taylor MEP have so far responded to my email, which I sent to all six Yorkshire and Humberside MPs on the evening of 10th September – and Linda McAven’s was an automatic reply. Rebecca Taylor’s reply is at the end of this post.)
EU fracking lobbyists not happy
In July, the draft changes to the EU Environmental Impact Assessment Directive cleared its first hurdle when it was endorsed by the parliamentary Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety. The directive still needs approval from both the council and parliament to be passed into law.
But according to a report by Natural Gas Daily1, fracking lobbyist Roland Festor (EU affairs director at the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers) said at a recent event in the parliament:
“The oil and gas industry has lobbied hard against the proposal, claiming environmental impact assessments for shale gas would be too complicated, especially if a project holds no guarantees of commercial development.
In its current version, the legislation risks halting new projects because of the requirement to undertake long, complex and costly environmental studies at an unnecessarily early stage, before a full understanding of the opportunity (including its scale) has been gained.”
Fracking – we don’t need it
Why does it matter if new fracking projects are halted?
As Councillor Cooper suggested at the Hebden Bridge No Fracking meeting, the strongest argument for those who oppose fracking is that, not only is it environmentally damaging – there’s absolutely no need for it.
Because the no-brainer policy options of energy conservation and renewable energy generation offer clear solutions to the problems of energy security, energy affordability and climate change reduction.
In a way, it’s hard to see why fracking companies are making such a fuss – Natural Gas Daily reports that European shale gas reserves are expected to be small compared with the United States.
Add in the opposition of around 60% of the people of the EU, according to EU Commission data, and you start to wonder why energy companies are hell bent on fracking.
Short term profits for fossil fuel companies have to be driving the frack binge. And the drive to export American fracking skills and technologies.
So it comes down to a power struggle between the profiteering fossil fuel companies, and the 60% of the European public and our political representatives who oppose fracking, because we have far better solutions to energy and climate change problems.
What the fracking lobbyists want
The fracking lobbyists’ organisation, the Association of Oil and Gas Producers, has asked MEPs to make a distinction in the legislation between requirements for exploration and for production, so that full environmental studies would not be carried out for fracking exploration. Only fracking for production would require an environmental impact assessment.
Who knows whether or not this fracking lobby request is why MEPs suddenly decided to postpone the vote? Are MEPs willing to water down the proposed changes to the Directive, in order to give the frackers what they want?
Lack of fracking regulation
As Councillor Cooper explained at the Hebden Bridge No Fracking meeting on 10th September, there is a lack of fracking regulation – it’s such a new process that legislation hasn’t caught up with it. And, if fracking lobbysists get their way – it never will.
No specific EU-wide environmental legislation is in place for shale gas extraction, although fracking does fall under existing directives, such as the commission’s Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive from 1991 and the hydrocarbon directive from 1994. And presumably, the EU Environmental Impact Assessment Directive, if the MEPs vote in favour of amending it to include fracking.
EU Commission considers fracking laws
The EU Commission seems likely to propose EU-wide legislation covering environmental standards for shale gas extraction – its 2013 Work Program2 includes developing an ‘Environmental, Climate and Energy Assessment Framework to enable Safe and Secure Unconventional Hydrocarbon Extraction’.
The EU Commission’s impartiality in developing fracking laws is in doubt. Marie Donnelly, the European Commission’s Director of Renewables, Research and Innovation, is on record 3 as stressing that Europe has to be interested in fracking its gas reserves. The EU Commission thinks that this would reduce dependence on importing Russian gas.
Ms Donnelly told a Conference of the fracking great or good that the make or break issue for fracking will be getting the buy-in and participation of citizens. She advocates that industry needs to engage in dialogue with citizens and to reassure us that development can be done safely.
Why this EU Commission predisposition towards fracking?
In 2011 Barack Obama visited Poland and encouraged it to frack its shale gas reserves. Poland is one of the biggest frackers in the EU. No doubt the US will make it worth Poland’s while to frack on, and no doubt Poland will be buying American expertise and technology to frack its shale gas.
Reporting on Obama’s visit to Poland, Reuters noted,
“U.S. energy giants such as Exxon Mobil and Chevron are at the forefront of efforts to tap Poland’s shale gas reserves, estimated by some U.S. experts to be the biggest in Europe at 5.3 trillion cubic meters.”
No doubt America needs to sell its fracking skills and technologies abroad to recoup the costs of developing them, and to help its economy recover from the body blow dealt it by its criminal banksters. And no doubt Poland has it own geo-political reasons for pursuing this fracking “romance” with America.
My guess is that an American fracking export drive, and its geopolitical rivalries with Russia are behind the Commission’s pro-fracking agenda. And that is really what we’re up against. Still, loads of tiny Lilliputians managed to tie down the gigantic Gulliver.
Rebecca Taylor MEP’s email
Thank you for your email.
As you are probably aware the vote that was due in Parliament yesterday was postponed until the plenary session to be held w/c 07-10-13. MEPs want to hold a plenary debate with representatives of the European Commission and the Council Presidency before holding a vote.
The Environment Committee of the European Parliament, of which I am a substitute member, voted overwhelmingly in favour of including unconventional methods of fossil fuel extraction in the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive, thus making them mandatory throughout the EU . The report was tabled by my ALDE colleague Andrea Zanoni MEP and was in line with a resolution of the Parliament in November 2012 in which MEPs backed tough rules on shale gas drilling.
I am clear that wherever shale gas ‘fracking’ is conducted it must be done in a safe and environmentally sound way. There are regulations in place to ensure on-site safety, prevent water contamination, air pollution and mitigate seismic activity. Before any actual drilling could occur in the UK there would need to be planning applications to the relevant local authority as well as permissions from the Environment Agency, Health and Safety Executive and, in the case of fracking, the Department for Energy and Climate Change as well.
I look forward to the debate in October. The EU Commission has previously indicated that it would bring forward specific legislation to deal with shale gas extraction. However any future legislation is framed I am confident that the Parliament will uphold its commitment to ensuring the highest possible environmental standards are in place wherever shale gas extraction take place.
Rebecca Taylor MEP
Liberal Democrat – Yorkshire & the Humber
Unit 10 Newlands House, Newlands Science Park, Inglemire Lane, Hull, HU6 7TQ.
Reply from Timothy Kirkhope MEP
Dear Ms Shepherd,
Thank you for your email about the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive. My position and that of my colleagues in the UK Conservative Delegation is as follows.
In principle, the Conservatives accept the inclusion of ‘shale gas production operations’ in Annex I of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive, thereby creating the provision for mandatory impact assessments on all shale gas/unconventional gas projects. However, the current wording of the amendment is problematic in that it would also make low-impact activities, such as exploration, subject to mandatory environmental impact assessment.
Put simply, this would mean that exploration and evaluation, which are mostly conducted in offices and laboratories with no ‘fracking’ and absolutely no impact on the environment, would be subject to a full impact assessment. Not only would such regulation be disproportionate but it would lead to many safe, environmentally sound activities being blocked.
Consequently, the Conservatives voted against amendments 31 and 79 but proposed new amendments which stipulated that the extraction of shale gas/unconventional fuels should undergo full EIA regardless of the amount extracted. However, the amendments made it clear that the exploration stage should be covered by the detailed screening procedure laid out in the existing Environmental Impact Assessment Directive.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.
Timothy Kirkhope MEP
Don’t hesitate! Agitate! And Be Annoying!