After a long debate over the use of fracking technology to extract shale gas in Germany, the federal government has issued a draft law allowing the controversial gas extraction method under certain conditions and in isolated cases.
But environmental associations have criticised the draft as fragmented and risky.
This decision will be welcomed in Westminster as the UK is presently the only member state in the EU that permits fracking.
German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks made every effort to dispel concerns over the controversial gas extraction technology. “In this way, we are applying the strictest rules that have ever existed in the fracking industry,” she said.
It will only be permitted under the strictest conditions and with the highest regard for the environment and drinking water, she said. The earliest possible date for initiation would be in 2019, because sample drillings must first be conducted to gather the necessary knowledge on the technology.
The draft law allows fracking in shale and coal bed rock starting at a depth of 3,000 metres. In addition, the method is permitted for testing purposes above 3,000 metres.
A body of six experts selected by the German government will decide whether the risks related to fracking above 3,000 metres are controllable and should be allowed for commercial purposes.
According to the anti-frackers, the German government is delegating the state’s responsibility for protection to a commission whose neutrality is questionable and which is in no way democratically legitimate. Three of the six institutions mentioned have previously expressed their support of the controversial technology.
Meanwhile, the Association of Municipal Utilities (VKU) said it fundamentally welcomed the legislative initiative, but called for clear legislative rules for fracking. In the VKU’s view, whose members provide around 80% of all Germans with drinking water, the planned regulations provide comprehensive protection of drinking water and its resources against the risks related to fracking.
SHALE: A God-send – or the Devil’s work?
Shale gas is an “unconventional” fossil fuel that is found within natural fissures and fractures underground. Until recently, no method of safely transporting it to the surface existed.
It is mined via hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, the process of breaking apart layers of shale by horizontally pumping liquids and a number of volatile and toxic chemical additives under high pressure thereby releasing trapped gas reserves.
To proponents, shale gas represents an untapped and welcome alternative energy source to traditional fossil fuels. To detractors it is a hazardous and highly-polluting fossil fuel.
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