Fracking causes serious health and environmental problems - report

20.09.2012 - 11:40

Shale gas exploration could “lock Europe into continued dependency on fossil fuels at the expense of renewable energy, energy savings and significant reductions in climate-changing emissions, a new report states.

The report, Unconventional and Unwanted: The Case Against Shale Gas, compiled by environmental NGO Friends of the Earth Europe (FoEE), says that serious health and environmental questions remain over shale gas exploration and ‘fracking’, the process by which the gas is extracted from the earth.

According to FoEE, “increased evidence shows fracking is an unambiguously high-risk activity that threatens human health and the wider environment. The high risk of water contamination, and air pollution with hazardous chemicals, are both recognised in a recent European Commission study”.

Antoine Simon, shale gas campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe says “fossil fuels like shale gas are unconventional and unwanted – they threaten the health of local communities, and the environment. They also threaten to lock Europe into fossil fuel dependency, side-lining renewable energy developments, energy savings and Europe’s commitment to a low-carbon future."

The report comes after the European Parliament’s environment committee voted for a resolution on shale gas and fracking on 19 September, which said that shale gas exploration, which although a member state issue, should adhere to the highest environmental standards, and be carried out with full transparency.

According to centre-right MEP, Bogusław Sonik, the author of the resolution,“the main message of the report is that having a precautionary environmental approach, shale gas and shale oil are given an opportunity to prove their commercial profitability. Europe cannot turn its back on resources that can play a key role in diminishing the dependence on external energy supply and in reducing CO2 emissions”.

In a statement after the vote, which was overwhelmingly in favour of the resolution, Linda McAvan, a centre-left MEP from the UK said that “We should make sure that strict regulation is in place before - and not after - shale gas development starts”.

"Unlike in the USA, where they went ahead without first making sure fracking would be safe, we need to ensure there are robust rules to protect health and the environment before we start fracking.

“We want to make sure that any shale gas company which is looking to operate in the EU knows that they will have to meet the highest environmental standards. There should be a ban on fracking in sensitive areas, and all fracking should be subject to an environmental impact asssessment - which would also guarantee proper public participation in planning decisions made by local authorities”.

There continues to be much opposition to shale gas exploration and fracking in Europe. A global day of action against fracking is due to take place on 22 September, while ans on fracking are already in place in France and Bulgaria, and there are moratoria in regions of Germany and Czech Republic, and in the Netherlands.