Germany Pre-approves Fracking
The German Council of Ministers approved a bill that allows the extraction of unconventional hydrocarbons with the technique of hydraulic fracturing.
The government will allow fracking to take place beginning in 2016, and says that the process of poisoning water and soil will have “strict limits”. According to the bill, the plan to authorize the use of this system for the extraction of oil and gas will be effective from 2019.
The restrictions that supposedly set new standards -pending approval in Parliament- were criticized as insufficient to environmental groups, the parliamentary opposition and representatives of parties in government. These groups consider that regulation is nothing more than leaving an open door to this controversial technique in the country.
The German government believes that the objective of the proposed bill is to limit the possible harmful effects of hydraulic fracturing on people and the environment. The problem is that the process of injecting chemicals into the ground to extract oil and gas is intrinsically harmful.
According to the bill, there will be measures set to protect water supplies for human consumption and nature in certain regions and it will be prohibited to use the technique at levels over 3,000 meters.
The new rules allow “limits to stop fracking when it poses a danger to people and the environment,” said Environment Minister, Barbara Hendricks, who recalled that this technique was not regulated so far in the country.
In hes view, “the law limits fracking as much as possibe” as the technique cannot be banned in its totallity, which is what opposition political parties demanded.
Hydraulic fracturing will be prohibited in cases in which “the responsibility for the risks can not be assigned to anyone or when there is a conclusive assessment” on it, said the minister.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Economy and Energy, Sigmar Gabriel, the bill of the Council of Ministers “provides legal certainty to both individuals and to the industries concerned and the associated jobs” and “clearly gives priority to the protection of the environment”.
Sigmar Gabriel pointed out that “you can only make use of the technology of hydraulic fracturing for scientific purposes in very limited exceptional cases and only if the risks are controllable and bearable and practice has been adopted in a transparent and public process”.
If the scans give positive results, the approval of a future commercial exploitation of the deposits will be left to a committee of experts, a formula which has also attracted criticism from MPs that require that the final approval be given to Parliament.
The legislative package, which should come into effect in January 2016, will now be debated in Parliament, where it can be amended.
The Federal Bureau of Geology and Commodities on German soil estimated that there are about 13 trillion cubic meters of shale gas, of which 10% is removable. The 10% figure would supply Germany the gas it needs for the next 14 years.