European Commission – EP: time track and explanation

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Below an overview of the latest developments re. Shale gas and regulations/legislations in the EU : EIA Directive and Shale gas Framework and the reaction of anti-fracker campaigners to these developments by sending the Joint open letter to EU institutions
(with at present over 400 signatures)

More background info: EC/EP 2011- 2013 and EC/EP 2014 
Comment on EC/EP 2014

On the EIA Directive review:

  • The EIA Directive is not only about shale gas, this is a very big piece of legislation regulating the environmental assessments which be done for any kind of industrial development.
  • October 2012: The European Commission (EC) worked on the file to introduce new amendments in order to improve the existing text. However, the EC didn’t include any reference to shale gas or fracking
  • Beginning of 2013: The file went to the EP. The rapporteur of the text, MEP Zanoni, accepted to include an amendment ensuring that shale gas projects would benefit from a mandatory EIA. The final proposal was agreed and approved by the Plenary Assembly in September.
  • November-December 2013: The text agreed at the EP level was discussed in Trialogue (between EP, EC and the European Council representing the 27 member states). However what was called a “strong blocking minority” at the Council (lead by the UK, Poland, Romania, Hungary, Czech Rep and Slovakia) rejected the amendments on shale gas. The EC remained silent, forcing the EP to yield to the pressure of the member states. However other non-shale gas related amendments were kept.
  • 12 February 2014: The environmental committee of the EP will vote on the text agreed in Trialogue. If approved, it will be voted in the Plenary Assembly for a very final vote.

On the shale gas framework:

  • September 2012: The EC published three studies about shale gas, including one about the environmental impacts considered as “high” for a number of impacts.
  • November 2012: The EP voted two opinion reports on shale gas, including one about the environmental impacts and calling for legislative actions to adapt the EU regulatory framework accordingly
  • December 2012: The EC announced it would run in 2013 an impact assessment to see if there is indeed a need for more legislation at the EU level in order adequately monitor the shale gas industry.
  • 2013: The EC organised a whole series of activities (European Public Consultation, new studies, experts workshops…etc) to decide what to do. Several options were considered: A new stand alone legislation, review of existing legislation, recommendations to member states and industries or business as usual. This is notably as part of this process that Cameron wrote to Barroso to ask him not come out with a legislative proposal as he would oppose it whatever it would say.
  • 22 January 2014: The EC presented its decision, which is one of the weakest option that was envisaged: Just some recommendations (therefore non-binding) to be followed by member states and industries.


Marian Harkin explains

Joint open letter – background info: time track, EIA + shale gas framework
Marian Harkin

A Chara,

With regard to my previous emails concerning the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive I am emailing with a quick update regarding fracking issues in the EU.

As you know last week in Strasbourg we voted on an updated Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive. Again just to give you a little background – the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive (EIA Directive) has been in force for 28 years and applies to a wide range of public and private projects. Its aim is to contribute to the integration of environmental considerations into the preparation of projects, plans and programmes to reduce their environmental impact. The Directive also aims to strengthen the quality of decisions by granting public participation in decision-making processes. The original EIA directive of 1985 has been amended three times (in 1997, 2003 and 2009) and has been codified by Directive 2011/92/EU of 13 December 2011.

With regard to fracking, there were two important changes made to the current Directive. The first and most important is the inclusion of hydraulic fracturing or fracking in Annex 1 of the Directive. Annex 1 includes projects subjected to mandatory Environmental Impact Assessments and fracking is now included on that list.
The amendment reads “Exploration, limited to the phase involving the application of hydraulic fracturing, and extraction of petroleum and/or natural gas trapped in strata of gas shale’s or other sedimentary rock formations with similarly low or lower permeability and porosity, independently of the quantity extracted”.

The vote on this was very close and it was the rapporteur, Andrea Zanoni MEP, that pulled together a compromise proposal and it just squeaked through. Andrea Zanoni is an Italian MEP and is in the same group as myself, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE). He was very helpful and great to work with and he stood firm on this line – that all fracking be made subject to mandatory EIA’s, even though there was strong opposition from certain quarters.

It’s worth noting that up to now Member States could decide whether or not an EIA was required for fracking, however now because of this decision they will not have that flexibility.

A second amendment which is also relevant for many people in regard to fracking is an amendment in regard to projects which could have cross border effects on the environment.

The amendment reads “In case of projects which could have cross border effects on environment, the Member States concerned should set up on the basis of equal representation, a joint liaison body responsible for dealing with all the stages in the procedure. The consent of all the Members States concerned should be required for final authorisation of the project”.

Finally it is very important to understand that this vote represents the European Parliament’s position only. The final stage is the negotiations with the European Council (28 Environment Ministers of the Member States). Only when agreement has been reached between Parliament and Council do we have legislation. In this context it would be worth your while contacting Phil Hogan, our Environment Minister, asking him to support these two positions in particular.

(NOTE: we did and see the results above, time track by Antoine)

I will let you know of any further developments and of course do not hesitate to contact me should you have any comments or queries.

Kind regards,

Marian Harkin MEP
European Parliament