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How effective has the EU approach to shale gas been?

Last week saw the publication of the European Commission’s report reviewing the effectiveness of the EU approach to shale gas. The report focuses on a 2014 recommendation calling for minimum principles for shale gas. Member States were invited to follow these principles to address environmental risks posed by high-volume hydraulic fracturing ("fracking"). The report seeks to review how successful the 2014 recommendation has been and which Members States have followed the guidance. Whilst only a limited number of shale gas exploration wells have been drilled in recent years, in a small number of Member States, the report concludes that the recommendation has not been applied evenly and that in some cases practices have been unsatisfactory.

Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, said: "More progress is necessary, both in the application of the Recommendation and in the correct and uniform application of EU environmental legislation. The tool remains essential for managing the risks posed by fracking, and it allows for hydrocarbon development in a transparent manner."

The European Commission will now focus on increasing transparency, developing a public database on unconventional oil and gas projects, and will continue monitoring developments at the national level. It will also foster a correct and uniform application of EU environmental legislation across Member States and encourage the use of best practices to address the environmental impacts and risks of oil and gas extraction. It will also look to address the gaps in scientific knowledge on public health impacts and the risks of such activities.

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Issue 52