The emergence of exploration for shale oil and shale gas across Europe will need to be backed up with "robust regulatory regimes" following a European Parliament vote today.
Member states should also be "cautious" about permitting exploitation of unconventional fossil fuels pending further analysis of whether EU-level regulation is appropriate, say MEPs.
Each member state has the right to decide on whether to exploit shale gas, according to the Energy Committee resolution, prepared by Niki Tzavela (EFD, EL), and adopted with 492 votes in favour, 129 against and 13 abstentions.
However, a "robust regulatory regime" is needed for all shale gas activities, including hydraulic fracturing. Environmentally-friendly processes and best available techniques should be used to achieve the highest safety standards, say MEPs.
The text acknowledges that substantial investments are needed to build the necessary infrastructure, but adds that this will have to be "entirely covered by the industry".
Domestic gas production in Europe is set to decline in future but demand for it will continue to grow, pushing up imports to 450 billion cubic metres by 2035, notes the text. New sources of natural gas, along with other measures such as boosting take-up of renewables and energy efficiency can help to achieve security of supply for the EU, it adds.
Although the European Commission has concluded that EU rules adequately cover licensing and early exploration and production of shale gas, the prospect of expanding exploitation of unconventional fossil fuels suggests that "a thorough analysis" of EU regulation on these fuels is needed, say MEPs in an Environment Committee report drafted by Boguslaw Sonik (EPP, PL) and adopted with 562 votes in favour, 86 against and 43 abstentions.
Special plans for water use should accompany any hydraulic fracturing activities and as much water as possible should be recycled, says the resolution. Companies must disclose which chemicals are used, in order to comply with EU legislation, it adds.
Following today's vote in the European Parliament, Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said: "I welcome the Parliament's vote today on the report on Environmental Impacts Of Shale Gas And Shale Oil Extraction Activities.
“It is clear that the future development of shale gas will depend on the extent of public acceptance of fracking. Addressing health and environmental risks will be of paramount importance for the industry to gain broad public acceptance and a 'public license to operate' in Europe.
“Our challenge is to make the right and balanced choices. Studies carried out indicate that there are a number of uncertainties or gaps in current EU legislation and the Commission intends to deliver next year a framework to manage risks, address regulatory shortcomings, and to provide maximum clarity and predictability to market operators and citizens across the EU."
An amendment urging Member States to ban any new fracking operations in the EU, tabled by MEPs from various groups was rejected by 391 votes to 262, with 37 abstentions.