Green groups are accusing the European Commission of “turning a blind eye” to the dangers of fracking, as leaked guidelines suggest it has ditched plans for legally binding regulations for the shale industry.
The guidelines – to be released as part of a comprehensive climate and energy package on 22 January – claim to ensure the safety of fracking and provide consistent regulations across member states.
They include risk assessments of new fracking sites, restrictions in flood and seismic-prone areas and the monitoring of fracturing fluids and methane emissions.
Member states would have to publish a scoreboard of compliance, and legislation could follow in 2015 if the guidelines prove ineffective, according to the draft paper.
Environmentalists, however, have slammed the non-binding guidelines as “disappointing and alarming”, and are accusing the Commission of caving into “interests of corporations and some fossil fuel-fixated governments” such as the UK and Poland.
Antoine Simon, shale gas campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe told Bloomberg:
This is obviously a very disappointing and alarming proposal. European politicians are turning a blind eye to the dangerous realities of shale gas expansion in Europe. The draft shale gas framework yields to the interests of corporations and some fossil fuel-fixated governments, ignores the studies the Commission published and fails to protect Europe’s citizens from the health and environmental risks of unconventional and dirty fossil fuels.
Just yesterday, UK Prime Minister David Cameron promised new incentives for councils willing to allow fracking, a move triggering outrage from local communities, environmental groups and several politicians.
Overall, EU member states remain split over shale gas, as France and Bulgaria have outright banned fracking, while Germany has a moratorium in place.
This shows how some states have heeded warnings that continued investment in fossil fuels is risky and that investment in clean energy and energy efficiency is vital to avoid dangerous levels of climate change.
MEPs and green groups are now calling on “responsible” commissioners to strengthen the proposal on fracking but also to support strong targets on greenhouse gas emissions, renewable energy and energy efficiency when they unveil their package of future energy and climate policies next week.
They say it would be a fatal signal for the Commission to open the door for more unconventional fossil fuels while failing to boost Europe’s clean energy agenda, especially as international climate negotiations depend heavily on European leadership.