Lithuania’s Constitutional Court rules Fracking Is in Line with Constitution
The Constitutional Court of Lithuania has ruled that hydraulic fracturing (fracking) waste can be buried underground.
The ruling comes after the Lithuanian Parliament’s 34 lawmakers, in November of 2013, logged an inquiry with the Lithuanian Constitutional Court about whether leaving radioactive leftovers in the earth’s depths during or after fracking is in line with Lithuanian Constitution.
The Court ruled that the law does not violate constitutional provisions on health and environmental protection.
Through the ruling, the Constitutional Court has recognised that the provisions of Paragraphs 2 and 4 of Article 11 of the Subsurface Law are not in conflict with the Constitution insofar as they provide that, while conducting subsurface research and/or using subsurface resources by means of hydraulic fracturing, the waste of the mining industry may be left in artificial subsurface cavities under a procedure established by the Government or an institution authorised by it.
“This ruling might be important in the future if there’s a reversal in the energy geopolitics and hydrocarbons start trending again," Kestutis Treciokas, Lithuania's deputy minister for the environment , told Natural Gas Europe. "But now it is not important and will remain that way for years to come.
"Frankly, I’d doubt it very much if Lithuania ever comes back to the issue (of shale gas exploration and mining)," he continued, "especially with the U.S. oil embargo lifted and with Europe, and Lithuania, too, expecting the first U.S. LNG deliveries. In addition to all this, the availability of our own LNG terminal in Klaipeda puts off the shale gas bid indefinitely."
In its ruling, the Constitutional Court has noted that the state is under constitutional obligation to ensure the protection and rational use of the subsurface as a national asset of general importance that belongs to the state by right of exclusive ownership.
It was emphasised in the ruling that the legislature, while pursuing the state economic policy together with the policy of using the subsurface, must regulate economic and other activities where such activities might pose a threat to the environment or people’s health.
In a press release after the ruling, the Constitutional Court notes that, under the Constitution, the legal regulation of economic activity is also possible. That regulation is established by the legislature and is designed for ensuring the general welfare of the nation. Relating to using the subsurface, it is allowed to apply the ways (technologies) of researching the subsurface and mining its resources, where such ways (technologies) might pose a threat to the environment or people’s health.
Additionally, the Constitutional Court noted that it is also necessary to establish effective measures that could create preconditions for a proper protection of the environment or people’s health, and that it is not allowed to carry out any such economic activity by which inevitable harm could be inflicted on the environment or people’s health.
However, the court emphasised that effective measures have to be established which would create preconditions for proper protection of the environment and human health, and prevent economic activities that could be harmful, according to the Constitutional Court statement.
Lithuania’s shale gas resources are estimated at 100 to 120 billion cubic metres. The American company Chevron had been the only candidate to explore and extract shale gas in Lithuania, but abandoned the plans in 2013, blaming unfavourable and ever-changing hydrocarbons legislation.