The Telegraph reports, “(British prime minister) David Cameron’s plan for a new fossil fuel bonanza from ‘fracking’ underground gas reserves is under threat from draconian environmental laws being drafted in Brussels. The European Commission has been drawing up proposals for a new framework directive, which (will be published in January but) could take years to negotiate, in order to regulate the pollution risks of ‘unconventional’ fuels, including shale gas. Conservative ministers fear the move could severely damage the UK’s shale exploration industry and are now plotting a fight-back against the Commission.”
“The dispute emerged as ministers prepare to announce next week that large swathes of Britain will be made available for shale gas drilling in the years ahead. A new round of licences for fracking is due to be issued to drilling companies next year and the government expects ‘massive interest’ from oil and gas exploration firms. …Licences for fracking already exist for sites in Lancashire, Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire and the next round of licences is expected to see new exploration sites opened up across southern England.”
“Owen Paterson, the Environment Secretary, returned from his latest dinner meeting of pro-fracking ministers on Friday. He was in Brussels attending a summit of environment ministers and hosted the talks on Thursday evening after the formal business of the day had concluded. He is understood to have won the support of countries including the Netherlands, Romania and Poland. But France is leading the opposition to fracking and has banned domestic exploration through the technique.”
We do not know if the Harper government has been lobbying against the European Commission legislation on fracking, but we do know that his government has lobbied against the European Fuel Quality Directive, an important piece of European climate legislation.
We also know that the Canadian embassy and corporate interests have actively been promoting fracking in Europe. In January 2012, The Tyee.ca reported, “George Eynon, a member of Alberta’s Energy Resources Conservation Board made presentations on shale gas regulation in Warsaw, Poland in 2010 and Paris 2011. …Members of the Canadian Embassy in Poland have also promoted shale gas development.” And as noted in the Telegraph article, Poland seems to be onside with the UK in opposing European Commission regulations to limit fracking in Europe.
And there has been Canadian corporate involvement in fracking in Europe. The Tyee notes, “In addition Alex Ferguson, former commissioner of the BC’s Oil and Gas Commission also offered advice on unconventional shale gas production to European audiences. …Ferguson is now a senior advisor to Apache Canada. Talisman and EnCana, two major shale gas developers, have extensive unconventional gas interests in Europe.”
In March 2012, trade campaigner Stuart Trew and water campaigner Emma Lui met with the Irish Minister of State for Energy & Natural Resources and Environment Fergus O’Dowd in Toronto to raise concerns with him about fracking. They noted our concerns about water and the climate change and highlighted the limits that could be placed on any future environmental legislation as a result of an investor-state provision in the Canada-European Union free trade agreement.
The New York Times has commented, “Britain, where the government is relatively well disposed to shale gas, is viewed as something of a bellwether. If shale gas catches hold in Britain and there are no major problems, its prospects on the Continent might look better as well.”