The oil industry and anti-drilling campaigners both declare victory after resolutions pass.
Members of the European Parliament meeting in Strasbourg adopted today (21 November) two resolutions on shale gas drilling which called for member states to exercise caution but did not call for an end to the practice.
But both resolutions stopped short of saying anything very conclusive about drilling, leading to both the oil industry and anti-drilling campaigners declaring victory. Industry group Shale Gas Europe said “the European Parliament has voiced its support for exploring Europe's domestic natural gas resources.”
At the same time Green Swedish MEP Carl Schlyter said the reports had “underlined growing public concerns with shale gas and the damaging methods for its extraction and urged caution to be exercised while the health and environmental impacts of shale gas are assessed.”
“MEPs have today highlighted this, as well as calling for EU liability rules to be revised to ensure that those involved in shale gas extraction are fully liable for all damages and are required to provide financial guarantees to cover the potential risks,” he added.
The confusing message was partly the result of the fact that one report had come from the Parliament's environment committee, while the other had come from the industry committee.
Environmental campaigners have said that ‘fracking' (hydraulic fracturing), which is the only way of extracting shale gas embedded in cracks deep below the Earth's surface, presents a danger to human health and the environment.
“The European Parliament missed an opportunity to take decisive action today to prevent the further spread of shale gas in Europe,” said Antoine Simon, shale gas campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe. “Some of the inherent risks of shale gas were recognised, but there's still a risk that the dangerous experiment played out on health and the environment in the US could be conducted in Europe.”
An amendment was tabled which called for a moratorium on shale gas drilling, but this only received the support of one third of MEPs. France, Romania, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic have all enacted national moratoriums.
Janez Potocnik, European Commissioner for the environment, welcomed the reports. The Commission has said that it sees no reason for new EU legislation beyond what already exists for conventional extraction, but a review is planned for 2013.
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