A report published this week has identified that a new ‘muscular legislative package’ is being prepared by the European Commission, bringing shale gas companies operating within the EU under a regime which will be “robust enough” to cater for the inherent environmental risks of the industry.

The new regime, which is likely to take the shape of an unconventional fuels directive, will be similar to existing EU provisions which deal with wastewater and environmental impact assessments.

The report, published by EU-dedicated independent media portal EurActiv.com, suggests that the directive will impose “several tough environmental safeguards”.

An official-source close to the EU explained that strong EU-wide legislation in relation to shale gas is necessary due to the fact that “it has to be a legal framework applicable across the EU and not just a vague set of guidelines…When that happens you are at the mercy of the various national systems and how they are applied, and if they are challengeable in court”.

The proposed directive, to be published in December 2013/January 2014, will aim to guarantee the same level of protection to the public from the risks of shale ‘fracking’ as is currently afforded in respect of other energy extraction.

It has been suggested that the planned directive will set down provisions for mitigating the risks of:

  • Venting and flaring of greenhouse gases
  • Seismic disturbances
  • Groundwater contamination and management of the water supply and reserves
  • Impacts on air quality and noise emissions
  • Associated infrastructure problems caused by heavy industrial activity

For more information and commentary in respect of the proposed directive, read the full report.