The European Commission has begun legal proceedings against Poland for amending its national laws to allow shale drills at depths of up to 5,000 metres without first having assessed the potential environmental impacts, EurActiv has learned.
In June, Brussels sent Poland formal notice that it was opening a case against it for infringing the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive.
If Warsaw does not now satisfy the Commission’s concerns by the end of August, the case will begin a several-month journey that could end at the European Court of Justice (ECJ).
Poland says that an amendment to its EIA law in June 2013 limits shale drills in ‘sensitive’ areas such as Natura 2000sites to 1,000m.
But “as shale gas reserves in Poland are located mostly at a depth 1,000-4,500m and the ‘sensitive’ areas cover only 23% of the Polish territory, the new thresholds de facto exclude most shale gas exploration projects in Poland from the scope of the EIA Directive,” Joe Hennon, a spokesman for the environment commissioner, Janez Potočnik, told EurActiv.
This law obliges shale gas producers to analyse and report on factors including volumes of water used, numbers of wells created, and the environmental impact of heavy truck traffic to and from shale sites.
The location of projects and risk of accidents also have to be accounted for, particularly in forests and densely-populated urban areas.