Europe turns a bliind eye to the dangers of fracking; Joint open letter by 260 [400 as of January 24] signatories to EU institutions on review of EIA Directive plans and transatlantic trade agreements

EU civil society voice opposition to European Commission green light for fracking Press Release, January 20, 2014

In an open letter addressed to EU institutions, some 300 diverse groups [as of January 20; 400 as of January 24] from across Europe criticise the Commission’s proposals to issue non-binding guidance for the industry, which pave the way for shale gas exploration. The EU executive body will announce its plans this Wednesday, as part of its 2030 Climate and Energy Package. Pressure from the fossil fuel lobby, as well as from Member States, with the UK playing a leading role, has resulted in the Commission making a U-turn from its previous course to deliver binding legislative proposals, initially favoured by Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik in October.

As new drilling sites appear across Europe, from Barton Moss in the UK to Pungeşti in Romania, groups point to how the current legal situation in the EU does not even guarantee mandatory Environmental Impact Assessments. Lobbying from Member States during recent negotiations on the review of the EIA Directive have resulted in the exemption of an amendment which would have required mandatory EIAs for shale gas projects. With no specific regulations in most Member States and plans for EU-wide legislation now scuppered, communities are at the mercy of an unregulated industry which has left a frightening toll of destruction in its wake in the US. 

The Commission’s move also flies in the face of EU public opinion. The results of a consultation it carried out last year reveal that two-thirds of EU citizens believe the shale gas industry should not be developed in Europe at all. When asked which policy option respondents would like it to pursue most, citizens chose the development of a comprehensive and specific EU piece of legislation, while industry opted for guidance.

Legislators seem intent to turn a blind eye to the dangerous realities of the industry despite its own recommendations. A study published by the Commission in September 2012 identified significant gaps in at least eight key environmental directives. The same study confirmed the high risk nature of shale gas activities. A growing body of peer-reviewed scientific evidence highlighting the threats to air, water and human health continues to emerge, along with an ever expanding list of global bans and moratoria, with Dallas, Texas the latest US community to outlaw the industry.

With failure from Brussels to provide protection to citizens, Leitrim County Council voted last week to insert a ban in its County Development Plan, lending a huge boost to plans for a nationwide ban. 

To coincide with the Commission’s announcement this Wednesday, citizen groups will also be staging demonstrations in protest

Joint open letter to EU institutions by 260 signatories as of January 16, 2014
249 groups of concerned citizens and environmental organisations, mobilised against the development in Europe of unconventional fossil fuels, are extremely worried about the recent developments regarding review of the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive, plans for a European UFF framework and also about transatlantic agreements and projects of the European Commission.

For the attention of:

José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, & Commissioners from DG ENVI, ENER, CLIMA, ENTR, AGRI;

To European Council Members and national heads of state (Presidents, Prime Ministers & Ministers concerned);

To Members of the European Parliament.

Subject: Unconventional fossil fuels / Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive & other projects from the European Institutions

English version

French version

German version

Czech version

Spanish version

Dutch version

List of signatures

Europe ‘turning a blind eye’ to the dangers of fracking by Antoine Simon and Geert de Cock, January 16, 2014,

2014 01 16 EU turning a blind eye to the dangers of fracking

Through a combination of corporate lobbying, and pressure from certain member states intent on exploiting their lands, shale gas regulation has been effectively fracked to pieces. The United Kingdom, Poland, and Romania have all played a leading role, with allies Hungary, Lithuania, and Czech Republic. The shale gas framework, proposed by the European commission, is now at best a mouthpiece for the fossil fuel industry – despite the best efforts of some decision-makers. Over the road at the European parliament, the decision to exempt mandatory impact assessments for fracking – as part of a wider review of the Environmental impact assessment directive – means environmental impact assessments for shale gas projects will only be undertaken voluntarily by member states. 

These assessments take into account the possible negative social and environmental impacts a proposed project may have, require mandatory baseline studies and ensure consultation with local populations. The exemption therefore allows shale gas developers to work without local consent, and without assessment of the impacts of fracking. Chevron’s current project in Pungesti, Romania, offers a stark example of the significance of this decision. Some member states have already expressed their lack of enthusiasm for assessments – in a continent with greater population density than the US we can expect to see more and more conflicts between local communities and gas companies. [Emphasis added]

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