The European Commission is studying whether the current European Union environmental laws would apply to shale gas production, but isn’t planning to propose any new legislation on what is becoming an increasingly contentious issue in Europe.
“At the moment, it is not foreseen that we come forward with a legislative proposal,” said Marlene Holzner, spokeswoman for Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger. The commission, which has executive powers within the EU, has however asked a private consultant to look into whether the present environmental laws would cover shale gas, she said.
Shale gas has begun to garner recent attention in Europe after remaking the U.S. natural gas market.
Shale gas, a natural gas trapped in rocks as deep as 3,000 meters underground, is extracted by injecting water, sand and chemicals at high pressure, a process called hydraulic fracturing and commonly known as fracking.
However, opponents say these injected materials could contaminate the ground and surface water or even cause gas to leak into domestic water supplies. France has banned hydraulic fracturing, and the process has also aroused opposition from environmental groups in the United Kingdom and Germany.
On Wednesday, Cuadrilla Resources, a small oil and gas company, said it found a large shale gas discovery in England. Some other EU member countries–like Poland, whose geology is also very promising for this technology–are very keen to develop the extraction in Europe as well because they see shale gas as a key to reducing their dependency on imports.
Many eastern European countries depend heavily on gas imports from Russia, which has created issues because of price disputes and transit problems across Ukraine.