EUREAU News Details

Shale gas: Environmental Impact Assessment must be compulsory

EUREAU // Press release // EUREAU, the European voice of the water services operators, shares the European Commission’s concerns that current EU environmental legislation is not sufficient to ensure the protection of water resources. However, the Recommendation adopted by the European Commission is not binding for Member States. EUREAU calls on the European Commission to propose binding legislation to effectively protect the environment and public health.

Gaps in the EU legislation were identified by various studies commissioned at EU level. By adopting minimum common principles to regulate shale gas exploration and production activities, the European Commission recognised that current rules fail to sufficiently protect water resources, the environment and public health.

With a Recommendation addressed to Member States, the European Commission would set only non-binding minimum principles that Member States should follow when regulating shale gas activities at national level. In 18 months the European Commission will review the implementation of the Recommendation and assess the need of proposing legally binding provisions.      

In December 2013, in the framework of the negotiations of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive, the European Parliament made an attempt to amend the Annexes of the EIA Directive, in order to make the impact assessment study for shale gas projects compulsory. Because of a blocking minority in the Council that attempt failed. In the Recommendation adopted today, the European Commission asks Member States to ensure that an environmental impact assessment is carried out and that the operator provides a financial guarantee covering potential liabilities for environmental damage, prior to the start of operations involving high volume hydraulic fracturing.

EUREAU believes that a clear and legally binding legal framework at EU level must be established, as outlined in the EUREAU position paper on shale gas from 24 October 2013. This must comprise a compulsory environmental impact assessment, including an open public consultation, for exploration and exploitation activities, as well as the application of the environmental liability directive provisions: these elements are crucial to safeguard the protection of water supply sources in terms of quantity and quality so that public health is not at risk.