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Around 300 European environmental groups, among them Friends of the Earth Europe and Ecologistas en Acción Spain sent an open letter to the European Commission, Council and Parliament, where they warn about the energy, climate and environmental consequences of promoting the fracking technique to extract gas.
The letter was sent because on January 22nd, the European Commission was due to announce a package of measures to regulate unconventional fuels. A strong directive about fracking was expected, keeping in line with the reports commissioned by community institutions. But, according to these groups, the pressure from several countries has weakened the measures and turned them into non-binding recommendations.
In this way, they state that in the fall of 2012, up to 11 loopholes were found in terms of mining waste, water and environmental assessments, that should be solved. Last October, the Commission was preparing, as a result of these inconsistencies and the impact analysis required, a strong directive that would turn the new norms into binding regulations.
However, the pressure by the member states most interested in the development of this activity, such as the United Kingdom or Poland, managed to “convince” the Chair of the Commission, Joao Manuel Durao Barroso, that applying regulatory obstacles to companies would drive investment away, especially from the US.
For this reason, the organizations are denouncing that the Commission will announce optional guidelines that will not be effective at all since they won´t be mandatory.
A poll conducted in Europe about this technology indicated that 64 % of the European Union population was against it.
In their open letter signed by organizations from 22 European countries, the groups indicate that the current EU legislation does not ensure the carrying out of satisfactory environmental impact analyses and that in this sense, this violates the democratic values of the bloc.
“The current legal situation in the EU does not guarantee a mandatory environmental impact assessment (EIA) for the exploration and extraction of unconventional fossil fuels (UFFs) throughout Europe, and represents a permanent violation of European environmental policy principles, of regional planning goals and of fundamental European democratic values”, states the document.
Samuel Martin Sosa, member of Ecologistas en Acción, said that “this is a real assault aiming to facilitate the landing of this extraction technique on the European Union, against the EU´s own legal conclusions”.
In an interview with Contagio Radio of Colombia, the environmental activist said that the regulation, as it is currently drafted, is not binding. He also said that in the steps towards a trade agreement between the EU and US, environmental demands are disregarded in order to favor investment.
Fracking has not been implemented in Europe yet, although there are countries that have advanced in their exploration stages. For instance, Poland has 40 wells for the extraction of shale gas.
And he added that exploration already implies the application of said technology. “We still have time to stop it in Europe”, said Samuel.
The letter adds that the extraction of “non conventional hydrocarbons” will worsen the greenhouse gas (GHG)footprint of EU countries. “Instead of moving away from fossil fuel energy sources, developing more sources of renewable energy and improving energy-efficiency policies, this industry would lock us into another dirty fossil fuel cycle”, states the letter.
“The extraction techniques impact ecosystems and local environments in a destructive and irrevocable manner”, states the letter and adds that the activities related to unconventional fossil fuels “take up a disproportionate amount of essential primary resources: land, water and air”, and therefore “extraction would lead to an increase in poverty” in favor of the companies responsible for the extraction projects.
The populations of the territories threatened by fracking projects have reacted with protests in the past months. Examples of this are the Zurawlow community in Poland (photo), Balcome and Barton Moss in the UK or Pungesti in Romania, with severe police repression as a response.
Samuel, of Ecologistas en Acción, said that there are over ten years of experience in this type of techniques in US that has polluted water with arsenic, methane, waste “accidents”, etc.
For more information: www.ecologistasenaccion.org and foei.org
Imagen: Resistance to Chevron in Poland taken from nofrackingvallespasiegos.blogspot.com
“Este triunfo de Uruguay debe ser un llamado urgente a analizar, revisar, renegociar o anular cuando corresponda todos los tratados bilaterales de comercio y de protección de inversiones que ha suscrito el país, antes de exponernos a nuevas demandas en las que podemos correr con distinta suerte que en la recién finalizada”.
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