Shale gas needs regulation, not a ban -European Parliament

Reuters Middle East

* Commission next year to propose regulatory framework

* Shale gas supporters welcome the vote

* Greens, environmentalists wanted a ban

BRUSSELS, Nov 21 (Reuters) - EU politicians rejected a ban

on shale gas, while calling for a robust regulatory regime to

address environmental and other concerns, in a series of votes

on Wednesday in the European Parliament.

A shale gas revolution has swept the United States, lowering

gas prices and helping to displace more polluting coal.

Europe is looking on with interest, if not envy, as the

United States moves towards energy independence and gets an

economic boost from cheap fuel.

But the prospect of extensive shale gas development in

Europe is complicated by land ownership rules, higher population

density and environmental concerns about the fracking process

used to extract natural gas from shale.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, involves pumping water

containing chemicals into shale rock formations at high pressure

and critics say it risks contaminating aquifers as well as

potentially causing earth tremors.

Although Wednesday's votes rejected a call for a ban on new

fracking activity, saying European Union member states had the

right to explore their reserves, they also took a cautious line.

Votes on two separate reports struck out sentences pushing

for swift shale gas development.

The rejected lines included one that shale gas could "play a

critical role" in the transition to low-carbon power generation

and another on supporting "a high level of sustainable shale gas


The European Commission is expected next year to deliver a

framework on managing the risks and addressing shortcomings in

relevant EU regulation.

"Studies carried out indicate that there are a number of

uncertainties or gaps in current EU legislation," Environment

Commissioner Janez Potocnik said in a statement.

"Addressing health and environmental risks will be of

paramount importance for the industry to gain broad public


Wednesday's parliamentary votes are not binding, but are a

political signal to Commission law-drafters.

Shale gas supporters welcomed them, while environmentalists

and Green politicians praised the mood of caution, but had

wanted a ban.

"This implies that member states should think twice before

allowing any projects of this controversial technology to go

ahead," Carl Schlyter, Swedish Green member of the European

Parliament, said in a statement.

Shale Gas Europe, a new body backed by oil and gas firms,

including Chevron, Statoil and Royal Dutch

Shell, said the parliament had called for shale gas

exploration and ensuring it was done sustainably.

"Shale Gas Europe fully supports those goals and will keep

engaging with citizens and decision-makers by listening to and

addressing concerns relating to shale gas," spokeswoman Monica

Cristina said.

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