Bulgaria Seeks Clarification on Environmental Impact of Shale Gas Drilling
Bulgaria has asked the European Commission to allow an additional in-depth environmental impact study to be carried out before the launch of shale gas drilling in the country, according to Environment Minister Nona Karadzhova.
The issue of shale gas development in Bulgaria has seen increasing attention since July, when Chevron Corp., won a tender to explore a concession near Novi Pazar in northeastern part of the country.
Interviewed by Bulgarian National Television, Karadzhova expressed hopes that EC's response would arrive soon and that it would be positive, thereby enabling Bulgaria to carry out another test before giving the green light to shale gas exploration activities by Chevron.
Current Bulgarian legislation only requires assessments for the compatibility of the exploration works with the Biodiversity Act and the Protection of Waters and Soil against Pollution Act, Karadzhova explained, as cited by the Bulgarian Telegraph Agency.
She claimed that although these two tests were sufficiently reliable, Bulgaria would call for an environmental impact assessment (EIA) to be carried out as well.
The Environment Minister assured that no proceedings had been launched because the Environment Ministry had not yet received any shale gas drilling projects.
"The EC must be notified that the government is about to grant a shale gas exploration permit to Chevron for a block near Novi Pazar without carrying out a prior EIA. If it does this, it will overstep its authority and commit a crime under the Penal Code," NGO representatives have warned.
Bulgarian Minister of Economy, Energy and Tourism Traicho Traikov has said that the government plans a thorough assessment of risks involved with shale gas.
Conceding that shale gas prospecting carried implies risks, Traikov said the aim of the assessment was to ensure that shale gas activities were conducted in a manner to keep the dangers to a minimum level.
Karadzhova said that the Bulgarian Prime Minister had undertaken a commitment to block drilling even if it only entailed minimal risks for the country.