Europe Eyes Tightening Fracking Rules

Friday, October 11, 2013 @ 06:10 PM gHale

European Union lawmakers voted Wednesday to force energy companies to carry out in-depth environmental audits before they start fracking.

Fracking involves shooting water, sand and chemicals at high pressure into shale to break it up which then releases the natural gas. France already banned the technique, also known as hydraulic fracturing. And it has produced protests in Britain.

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The news rules narrowly won approval in the European Parliament, which met this week in Strasbourg, France, and still must undergo another round of voting in the Parliament once they reach an agreement on final language with European Union governments. Shale gas projects that do not use fracking would not fall under the new rules.

The vote is a setback for the shale-gas industry in Europe, where it is not as far along than the United States and where citizens remain more concerned about the environmental impact of recovering the gas than about finding new sources of hydrocarbons as a way of combating high energy prices.

According to the rules approved Wednesday, the shale gas and infrastructure projects would need audits based on “the direct and indirect significant effects” on human health, species and their habitats, land, water and climate.

The European Parliament voted in November on whether to ban fracking entirely. But that vote, part of a broader resolution on fracking, lost by 391 votes to 262, with 37 abstentions.

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