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Disappointment at lack of EU legislative action on shale gas

The EU Commission has backed away from legislation on fracking and instead, issued voluntary ‘minimum principles’. HEAL expresses disappointment at this lack of legislative action despite the negative health and environmental impacts of fracking.

The EU Commission has published its recommended voluntary guidelines for Member States to follow when deciding on granting licenses for shale-gas exploration. The recommendations cover such points as well integrity; water air and soil quality monitoring prior to operations; air emissions controls; public information; and operator controls. This is a very disappointing step down from mandatory measures in legislation favored by the EU Commissioner for the Environment Janez Potočnik to ensure that fracking has better oversight. The lack of mandatory rules runs counter to the Commission’s own impact assessment, and calls from the European Parliament and International Energy Agency.

The Commission invites the EU Member States to consider the principles within six months and after December 2014 to report each year which measures that they have put in place. The Commission will monitor the application of the Recommendation with a publicly available scoreboard that will compare the situation in different Member States. It anticipates reviewing the effectiveness of this approach in 18 months.

The Recommendation and Communication are part of the Commission’s wider climate and energy policy framework up to 2030.

More than 700 chemicals are typically used in the fracking process, many of which can disrupt normal human hormone functioning as well as having impacts on the environment. Fracking also involves many other harmful impacts on human health, from air and noise pollution to releases of naturally occurring radioactive materials from underground to greenhouse gas releases. Retrenching to voluntary guidelines does not ensure that human health threats associated with fracking are addressed.

The Communication and the Recommendation can be found here

’Citzens guide’ available here

In another development, on 5 February, the European Parliament addressed fracking in their vote on a (non-legislative) opinion on the "2030 framework for climate and energy policies". The vote accepted a particular passage in the report that calls for the European Commission, when in future it proposes legislation on hydraulic fracturing, to include mandatory Environmental Impact Assessments for both exploration and extraction activities on shale gas, and to ensure transparency on data on chemicals used in order to secure the highest possible level of public health and environmental protection” (Paragraph 90).

Representatives from HEAL, Friends of the Earth Europe, Food and Water Europe and SOS Rosia Montana Brussels gathered outside the EU Commission on 22 January 2014 to stand in solidarity with local communities in Europe resisting fracking. They called for no fracking in Europe. Photo copyright: FoE Europe/Flickr

Last updated on 7 February 2014

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The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) is a leading European not-for-profit organisation addressing how the environment affects health in the European Union (EU). We demonstrate how policy changes can help protect health and enhance people’s quality of life. Read more »


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