The German government is edging closer towards lifting its ban on fracking, with new draft legislation that could allow the controversial process at depths of over 3,000 metres.
The law would overturn a four year moratorium on shale gas exploration in the country.
It could also pave the way for fracking to take place at depths shallower than 3,000 metres, with a new six-person expert panel empowered to decide on such projects – although initially this would only be allowed for research purposes.
Fracking in water protection zones would continue to be banned.
The move comes amid intense lobbying from the energy industry which uses the country’s rising energy costs and cheaper energy costs in the US, where fracking is widely used, as reasons to push the controversial process through in Germany.
But the announcement sparked immediate protests by those accusing the government of undermining its long-standing plans to transition away from fossil fuels.
They argue the expert panel proposed by the government, includes at least three institutions known to support fracking in Germany.
Local communities across Europe have raised concern over fracking, expressing fear that the process of unlocking gas from deep underground – which injects pressurised water, sand and chemicals into rock formations – will harm their health, the environment and their way of life.
They also warn that the use of highly pressurized water and chemical threatens freshwater resources, cause chemical contamination and risk earth tremors.
With theses unacceptable health, environmental and climate threats, opponents of fracking across the world are calling for a ban on shale.
In the most recent win for fracking opponents New York state banned the controversial process, citing concerns over the contamination of water and air.
Across Eastern Europe local opposition has flared, particularly in Bulgaria and Romania, where angry confrontations took place between farmers – backed by activists and priests from the Orthodox church – and the police.
The latest move by the German government could see its moratorium on fracking come to an end before the end of the decade.
The proposed rules must now go through the country’s parliament, where changes could still be made to the legislation.