Shale Gas Escapes Stringent EU Environmental Directive
The EU agreed to move forward on new rules to assess the environmental impact of oil and gas exploration, without specifically citing mandatory impact assessments for shale gas developments, as was recommended by a Parliamentary commitee.
Permanent Representatives the Member States voted in favor of the final compromise text of Environmental Impact Assessment' (EIA) Directive on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment.
The EU stated that the changes were undertaken to "correct shortcomings, reflect ongoing environmental and socio-economic changes, streamline the EIA process and strengthen its quality, enhance policy coherence creating synergies with other EU legislative instruments. At the same time it aims at ensuring a high level of protection of the environment and of human health."
Nations such as Britain which favour shale gas development, had lobbied against regulations at the EU level fearing that it would impair development of its shale exploration industry.
British Prime Minister David Cameron had appealed to directly to European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, arguing against stringent rules for shale gas and Owen Paterson, the UK Environment Secretary, hosted a series of private dinners in Brussels in an attempt to persuade ministers from other EU countries to back Britain’s case.
In a statement, the Minister of Environment of Lithuania Valentinas Mazuronis commented:
“We tried to find a rational solution within the Council and with the European Parliament, which would allow to improve the quality and compatibility of EIA processes in the EU. To this end, we aimed at finding a reasonable and balanced agreement without fundamental changes of the underlying Directive. As a result minimum quality requirements for different elements of environmental impact assessment process, ensuring a better integration of the EIA results into the decision-making procedures and improving the effectiveness of public participation and information will be established.”
Shale gas development in the EU is covered by 17 different pieces of legislation, but no specific law on regulation of the unconventional gas has been approved at the EU level
Read an Interview with Valentinas Mazuronis, environment minister of Lithuania HERE