EC = European Commission
EP = European Parliament
ENVI = committee on the environment, public health and food safety
EIA = Environmental Impact Assessment
AM = Amendment
NGO = Non-governmental organisation
Political Groups (consisting of various national parties)
ECR – European Conservatives and Reformists Group
EFD – Europe of freedom and democracy Group
EPP – European Peoples Party (FG)
ALDE – Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (FF)
S&D – Socialists and Democrats (Labour)
GUE/NGL – Group of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left (SP)
All MEP’s – MEP List 2014-1-7
- Need to combine competitiveness, sustainability and security
- Need for an adequate legal framework that is science-based, with adequate governance
- Need for regulators to keep up with technological developments
- Sharing knowledge across the EU
- Involve different stakeholders, including civil society
- A ‘call for expression of interest’ will be issued in the next few weeks to invite stakeholders to participate.
- A first meeting will be held in October to decide on tasks and divide the work in working groups.
- The Commission will decide on the need for new legislation on shale gas and other unconventional fossil fuels by August next year. The data generated by this network will feed into the Commission’s discussions.
- The Commission signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the US Geological Survey as well as the EPA.
- A contract was also signed with the International Institute for Applied systems analysis in Vienna (if my notes are correct, to conduct a study into the geopolitical impact of the shale gas ‘revolution’)
- The Association of the European Geological Surveys has been contracted to develop better experience in assessing the EU’s shale gas potential.
1. Industry repeatedly spoke to the problem of ‘public opinion’ and the commission officials to the need to find ‘consensus’. There appears to be a tendency, that the industry are propagating and the some of the commission are ready to accept see this as a science v (unhelpful) public opinion question. It would be important to push back on that framing in any future engagement.
2. The undercurrent of much of the input was that the JRC should seek answers to the question of ‘how’ to do fracking safely. There was little emphasis (other than from civil society) on the question of looking at the evidence to answer ‘if’ fracking should take place at all
Risks of transport of fracked shale oil / natural gas infrastructure
We spend a lot of our time on raising awareness about the fracking process. However, after the gas or oil has been produced, the fossil fuels still need to be transported. And that transport has serious risks as well.
In Europe, most people will not be living close to a shale gas or oil well, but a lot more people will be confronted with the ancillary infrastructure.
Gas is transported by pipelines. If a gas pipeline explodes, this is what happens. Also remember the 2010 San Bruno explosion in California (8 deaths). For every well pad that targets shale gas, some 3 kilometers of pipeline will need to be constructed.
And in North Dakota, fracked shale oil gets put on trains to be transported to refineries. If a train explodes, this is what happens. Also remember the Lac Megantic explosion in Quebec, Canada where a train carrying shale oil exploded (47 deaths).
It turns out that there is a higher explosion risk, when fracked shale oil gets transported by freighter trains. Mainly because of the Volatile Organic Compounds in the shale oil. This article on Desmogblog goes into more detail.
The recent Recommendation of the European Commission fails to address this issue of the safety of transport of fracked fossil fuels. This is deeply problematic in a densely populated continent like Europe. I have approached some MEPs about asking a question on this topic.
Here you can find some more details with additional sources. Might be useful to ask some national governments about this as well.
Think Local, Act Global, The Dutch– http://www.irishenvironment.com/reports/think-local-act-global-dutch-ideas-for-a-robust-environmental-policy-for-the-21st-century/
The Parliament Magazine has just published an op-ed FoEE and Food & Water Europe jointly wrote:
This is probably the best update we could give you about the most recent
developments and discussions at the EU level before the 22nd of January.
Antoine Simon: (FOE E)
We got access yesterday to the Communication but also to the Recommendations that the European Commission are going to make on the 22nd January.
You can find an article from Bloomberg reporting about it: http://www.businessweek.com/news/2014-01-13/eu-to-offer-minimum-guidelines-for-fracking-shale-draft-shows
It confirms our biggest fear as this proposal is the weakest option that the Commission could make: non-binding recommendations. It still leaves the door opened to possible legislation after 18 months if Member States do not comply with these recommendations, but the problem will be the same in 18 months, with the huge lobby by the UK and its allies to prevent the Commission from doing any legislative moves. Just a delaying tactic that ignores all the polls, european public consultation, studies, etc that have been published over the last two years and that were all calling for urgent legislative actions.
It all confirms what we have in the open letter. (the large letter that will be sent shortly)
Antoine Simon – Friends of the Earth Europe
I have new information both about the EIA Directive and the so-called shale gas legislation:
- First about the EIA Directive: You can find enclosed the latest version of the text after the trialogue negotiations between the EP, the EC and the Council. Because the agreement was found just before the Christmas holidays, nothing has happened since then. The legal team of the European Parliament will now need some time to proofread and fine-tune these last discussions on the text. The final date for the ENVI Committee vote will be decided when proofreading work will be finished… and it’s apparently taking quite some time as many other big files are being rushed at the moment to be finished before the European elections. That basically means that the ENVI Committee and Plenary vote will not happen before at least February (it could also be in March or April)… which therefore leaves us more time to finalise the letter.
- About the “shale gas legislation”: That is something we more or less knew before, but we received the confirmation that it will be weakest option the Commission could have offered. On the 22nd of January, the Commission will therefore present a non-binding shale gas framework (therefore not legislative) and which will more or less consist in guidance on how to interpret existing legislation
More background information (thanks to Antoine)
- It is a bit confusing as the ENVI Committee vote may actually happen almost on the same day than the presentation by the European Commission of the Shale Gas legislation (or whatever it is). The date set is the 22nd of January
- About the European Parliament’s vote: It is important to understand right now what will really be voted by the EP –> To cut one long story short, the Council rejected all the shale gas amendments, but agreed on compromise amendments on other issues (the EIA review was not only about shale gas as you certainly know). The other environmental NGOs which followed the review of this directive at a more general level (not only through the shale gas scope) consider that these compromises represent an important improvement of the text… The EP will therefore vote on these compromise amendments as a whole: MEPs will basically say whether they support the overall text or not. They won’t be discussing about the shale gas AM. Unfortunately, we already know that the ECR, EFD, EPP, ALDE and most probably the S&D groups will support this text. Only the Greens have clearly said that the shale gas AM were their red tape and that because the shale gas AM were rejected, they would therefore reject the text.
We know that the Chair of the ENVI Committee (the German S&D Matthias Groote) is particularly angry about the shale gas amendments. When the text was discussed at the EP level, the only contribution he made to the text was about shale gas.
- Either way, keep it mind that the ENVI Committee vote will happen this month, and the final Plenary vote mostly probably in February.
Objective of the ENVI Committee
‘We are working to see the many concerns of citizens all over Europe reflected in environmental, health and food safety legislation. The European Parliament has gained co-legislative powers in the vast majority of issues discussed in ENVI, making it one of the most influential committees. ‘
Well, actually, now that we know that no legislation will be improved, reviewed or adapted, we know all the gaps that the industry will use to bypass a number of legislation: The European Commission actually did the listing work for us a year ago with the studies it commissionned:
– Support to the identification of potential risks for the environment and human health arising from hydrocarbons operations involving hydraulic fracturing in Europe http://ec.europa.eu/environment/integration/energy/pdf/fracking%20study.pdf
– Regulatory provisions governing key aspects of unconventional gas development in eight Member States http://ec.europa.eu/environment/integration/energy/pdf/Final%20Report%2024072013.pdf