More “Best in the World” frac backtrack: Germany to legalize fracking, including shallow

Germany moves to legalise fracking, Four-year moratorium on shale drills set to be overturned as country initiates process to allow regulated hydraulic fracturing for shale gas  by Arthur Neslen, Europe environment correspondent, February 14, 2015, The Guardian
Germany has proposed a draft law that would allow commercial shale gas fracking at depths of over 3,000 metres, overturning a de facto moratorium that has been in place since the start of the decade.

A new six-person expert panel would also be empowered to allow fracks at shallower levels

Shale gas industry groups welcomed the proposal for its potential to crack open the German shale gas market, but it has sparked outrage among environmentalists who view it as the thin edge of a fossil fuel wedge. … “It is important to have a legal framework for hydraulic fracturing as until now there has been no legislation on the subject,” Maria Krautzberger, president of Germany’s federal environment agency (UBA), told the Guardian. “We have had a voluntary agreement with the big companies that there would be no fracking but if a company like Exxon wanted, they might do it anyway as there is no way to forbid it,” she said. …

The draft law would only affect hydraulic fracturing for shale oil and tight gas in water protection and spring healing zones.

The tight gas industry made up around 3% of German gas production before the moratorium, and, under the new proposals, could resume fracking in the Lower Saxony region where it is concentrated.

Commercial fracking for shale gas and coal bed methane would be banned at levels below 3,000 metres, but allowed for exploration purposes at shallower levels, subject to the assessment of the expert panel.

Environmentalists, however, were alarmed that half of the experts belong to institutions that signed the Hanover Declaration, calling for increased exploration of shale gas in Germany as a way of increasing energy security. “It is clear what these people are going to say,” José Bové, the French Green MEP, told the Guardian. “The panel is not going to be independent, but exactly what the companies are looking for. You don’t need a panel to tell you that shale gas is dangerous. We can see the problems with water pollution, earthquakes and methane emissions. We need people to protest about it before the exploration begins.”

… The proposed law is just beginning its legislative passage and could still change in intergovernmental and parliamentary discussions, before a plenary vote in the Bundestag in May.

If passed into law, the expert panel should be set up in 2018, and the following year could see the first fracking in Germany since 2011. [Emphasis added]

German government approves fracking by Nicole Sagener, translated from German by Erika Körner, euractiv, February 13, 2015
After a long debate over the use of fracking technology in Germany, the federal government issued a draft law allowing the controversial gas extraction method under certain conditions and in isolated cases.

German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks made every effort to dispel concerns over the controversial gas extraction technology. “In this way, we are applying the strictest rules that have ever existed in the fracking industry,” [That’s what they all say, while enabling the opposite] the Social Democratic Party (SPD) politician assured.

It will only be permitted under the strictest conditions and with the highest regard for the environment and drinking water, [Again, that’s what they all say….] she said. The earliest possible date for initiation would be in 2019, because sample drillings must first be conducted to gather the necessary knowledge on the technology, Hendricks explained.

New draft law weaker than its predecessor

Still, the law is weak compared to the key points compiled by the Environment and Economic Affairs Ministry last summer. At that time, the measure issued a full prohibition on non-conventional shale gas extraction, with the exception of research-based sample drillings, until the year 2021. Following the prohibition period, the restrictions would be reevaluated based on new research findings.

For this reason, many environmental protectionists remain sceptical. “Fracking in shale and coal bed deposits is related to considerable risks for the water table and the stability of the subsoil. Allowing it now is incomprehensible,” said Sascha Müller-Kraenner, federal managing director of the German environmental relief organisation Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH). Müller-Kraenner said he considers the draft law presented by Hendricks and Economic Affairs Minister Sigmar Gabriel fragmented and legally dubious. The procedure’s uses for the energy industry are disproportionate to the already foreseeable risks, the DUH director indicated.

The draft law allows fracking in shale and coal bed rock starting at a depth of 3,000 metres. In addition, the method is permitted for testing purposes above 3,000 metres.

A body of six experts selected by the German government will decide whether the risks related to fracking above 3,000 metres are controllable and should be allowed for commercial purposes.

According to the DUH, the German government is delegating the state’s responsibility for protection to a commission whose neutrality is questionable and which is in no way democratically legitimate. Three of the six institutions mentioned have previously expressed their support of the controversial technology.

For fracking in sandstone, which will still be permitted under the draft law, the DUH called for far-reaching improvements.

“We need a water protection law that protects resource number 1 – without buts, ands or ifs,” emphasised Michael Beckereit from the VKU. First and foremost, that means that fracking should not be allowed in the vicinity of drinking water facilities. [Emphasis added]

[Refer also to:

2014 08 01: German Environment Agency urges fast frac ban

2014 07 31: Germany EPA Frac Report Released: Risks Associated with Fracing are Too High; “So far, no company has been able to present a sustainable waste management concept”

2013 05 23: Fracking threatens purity of beer, say German brewers, Purity Concerns: German Beer Brewers Foaming over Fracking, Beer industry asks for halt to legislation on controversial gas extraction

2013 02 18: Germany may ban fracking over environmental concerns ]

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