No need for 'fracking' legislation - study


A European Commission consultancy study on licensing hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" for shale gas in EU member states says there is no need for specific new legislation governing the controversial activity.

However, the study notes that public participation in authorising mineral exploration projects is "often rather limited".

The study by Brussels-based legal firm Philippe and Partners analysed the legal situation governing "fracking" in four EU member states - Sweden, Poland, France and Germany.

"Fracking" involves injecting large volumes of water, chemicals and sand into rock formations to break them open and extract previously inaccessible fossil fuel deposits, such as gas.

A US Environmental Protection Agency preliminary study published late last year found that chemical compounds which were likely to have been associated with the activity were found in groundwater beneath a small community in central Wyoming.

Ireland was not included in the EU consultancy study, but the subject is contentious both here and in Britain. Three companies here have been granted two-year "preliminary" onshore licensing options for shale gas here over parts of the Lough Allen and Clare basins covering segments of 12 counties.

Minister for Energy Pat Rabbitte has since commissioned research from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is expected at the end of February or early March.

The European Commission consultancy study found that Poland, of the four states examined, is most enthusiastic about fracking, and it is currently prohibited in France.

German geoscientist and Green Party councillor Helmut Fehr said that the EU consultancy study was " worth being analysed by any politician who takes people's concerns about the contamination of Ireland's water resources seriously".

The approach taken by the German North Rhine-Westphalian Länder-government could be regarded as a model for other EU countries, he said, in trying to improve the public's participation in the granting of licenses and permits.

He said that the study noted that the existing EIAs were limited to "totally unrealistic production thresholds", and there was a need to "modernise antiquated mining law" in member states.