|Treasury Minister Mikołaj Budzanowski was highly critical of the report|
The Polish government has reacted angrily to news that the European Commission is planning to strengthen environmental regulations related to the extraction of shale gas. The EC says changes in legislation will be needed in order to deal with threats to the environment which were identified in a new report.
A study for the European Commission led by consultancy AEA Technology highlighted risks to surface- and ground-water contamination related to the hydraulic fracturing process used to extract shale gas, as well as other risks, including increases in air and noise pollution.
“The study identified clear gaps in the existing legislation,” said EC spokesperson Joe Hennon.
“We will analyze, consult with member states and the public, and propose something in 2013. At this stage it is not possible to say whether it will be stand-alone new legislation or amendments to existing legislation,” he added.
Experts say tougher environmental regulations would likely raise shale gas production costs for companies prospecting in Poland.
‘Behind a desk’
Poland’s Treasury Minister Mikołaj Budzanowski said he disagreed with many of the findings in the report and criticized it for “misleading the public from behind a desk.”
“This is an important matter and we will intervene,” he said. “I have the impression that the report was prepared in the comfort of an air-conditioned office, not taking into account the laws of physics and geology.” He added that companies prospecting for shale gas in Poland currently adhere to stringent, and sufficient, environmental regulations.
The government is staking major hopes and no little capital on the development of the country’s shale gas industry, which could allow Poland to become a self-sufficient producer of gas.
“That partly explains why the government reacted so sensitively,” said Łukasz Cioch, general director of the Centre for Energy Studies at Tischner European University. “The promising outlook for commercially exploitable shale gas in Poland is subject to many factors and variables at this stage. The government is risking a great deal. It probably prioritizes hard facts and critical answers from people close to the actual drilling over PR, social activism and reports produced from behind a desk,” he added.
Polish media reported that a number of experts are skeptical about the findings of the report due to earlier close cooperation between AEA Technology and Russia’s Gazprom group, the world’s largest extractor of natural gas. Gazprom exports large quantities of natural gas to Poland and would lose out if Poland’s shale gas industry were to take off.
Poland is thought to have the EU’s largest shale gas reserves, but estimates of total accessible deposits vary widely.
“Over time, facts should prevail over speculation and, hopefully, be reflected in sound, fact-driven EU legislation, sooner than later. As of now, there appears to be a lot of politics, lobbying and ‘strategizing’ behind closed doors, especially among business stakeholders. We are still at a very early stage in Poland, as reflected by the current legislative turmoil,” said Mr Cioch.
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From Warsaw Business Journal by Gareth Price
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