Jointly developed by Friends of the Earth Europe and Food & Water Europe, the report – ‘Fracking business (as usual)’ – claims the EU’s current recommendations rely too heavily on self-monitoring by the oil industry to be able to implement any regulation changes.

Friends of the Earth’s shale gas campaigner Antoine Simon said: “The European Commission and EU Member States lack the political will and ability to strictly regulate the fracking industry.

“With mounting evidence about the negative impacts of fracking in the US and growing recognition of the long-term risks, we believe that the precautionary principle should be front and centre in decision-making on fracking in Europe. Relying on industry monitoring its own impact is like putting the fox in charge of the hen house.”

The report claims member states are exploiting the weaknesses of fracking guidelines by refusing to take precautionary action; failing to publish chemical use or safely dispose of fracking waste water and refusing to take liability for abandoned wells. It notes that 88% of the studies on air quality around fracking sites showed increased levels of on-site air pollutants.

Friends of the Earth and Food & Water Europe have duelly warned that this “disregard for environmental safety” poses community threats such as ground water contamination, toxic air pollution, damage to landscapes, and health risks including cancer and birth defects.

The EU’s fracking guidelines were introduced in 2014 and asked Member States to implement the ‘minimal principles’ within six months, with a ‘committed review of member’s actions’ scheduled for the end of this year.

Fractured UK

The UK’s main monitoring authority, the Environment Agency (EA), told the EU Commission that “competent authorities have adequate resources to carry out their duties in relation to the exploration of hydrocarbons using high volume hydraulic fracturing, which represents the current stage of development of the industry in the UK”.

While only the UK, Poland, Lithuania and Germany have actually implemented legislative action to oversee shale gas exploration, the report did note that the EA’s £2.3bn pension fund included “£50m direct investments in oil and gas companies such as Shell, BP and BG Group, as well as millions more in indirect oil and gas funds”.

In August, the UK Government formally began offering out twenty seven blocks of land across the UK, mainly in the North East, to gas and oil companies for fracking purposes. That is despite the fact that support for fracking has fallen to an all-time low. Figure from DECC’s quarterly public attitudes survey found that just one in five people supported the scheme.

Speaking at this week’s Conservative party conference, UK Energy Secretary Amber Rudd pointed out that shale gas has led to dramatic reductions in US carbon emissions because it is cheaper without subsidy than the dirtier alternative.

“That is why we support the safe development of shale gas in the UK, because gas is going to be part of the transition to a low carbon economy,” Rudd said.

Matt Mace

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