New EU Law on Shale Gas

Written by | Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

The European Commission is about to publish an extensive legislative package on shale gas firms operating in Europe. It is expected that the law will be in the form of a directive regarding unconventional fuels. EU directives are binding in their outcomes, but the way by which they are achieved is left to particular member states.
The new legal framework aims to minimize risks connected to shale gas and its intention is to provide clarity for investors and the companies working in the sector. The directive should also deal with environmental and public health issues as it is expected that shale gas imposes bigger environmental risks than conventional fuels. Therefore, the law will address a variety of issues ranging from venting and flaring of greenhouse gases through groundwater contamination, air quality to noise emissions and infrastructural problems due to intense industrial activity.
Concerns have been raised particularly due to methane, which is released into the atmosphere during shale gas drills. The Union’s Joint Research Center states that extraction of shale gas implies high risk to environment and human health. The International Energy Agency estimates that the most environment-friendly drilling method increases global temperature by 3.5 degrees – an assessment which is not widely accepted. Representatives of the industry promise to use the greenest methods possible, which should greatly mitigate the effect of methane on climate. Methane is a highly-potent short-lived greenhouse gas 86 times stronger than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. The news that methane is going to be regulated by the new shale gas law has partially soothed the greens who have been lobbying for an overarching legislation on the emissions.
Jose Manuel Barroso, President of EU Commission, is reportedly eager to include the new legislation in a broader energy and climate package, which could encompass areas like tar sands, 2030 targets and even the Emissions Trading Scheme, which regulates greenhouse gas emissions in Europe.

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