The emergence of exploration for shale oil and shale gas in some EU countries should be backed up with "robust regulatory regimes" according to separate non-binding resolutions adopted this week by the Energy Committee (on industrial aspects) and the Environment Committee (on health and environment ones). Member states should be "cautious" pending further analysis of whether EU level regulation is adequate, according to environment MEPs.

Each EU country has the right to decide for itself on whether to exploit shale gas, said the Energy Committee. Member states should have robust rules on all shale gas activities, including hydraulic fracturing of rock ("fracking"). MEPs also advise the EU to learn from US experiences, with a view to using environmentally-friendly industrial processes and "best available technologies". 

The Commission previously concluded that EU rules adequately cover licensing and early exploration and production of shale gas but "a thorough analysis" of EU regulation on unconventional fossil fuels is needed, given the possible expansion of their exploitation, note Environment MEPs. 

Water and chemicals

Special plans for water use should accompany any fracking activities and as much water as possible should be recycled, according to the Environment Committee resolution. Companies must disclose which chemicals are used to comply with EU legislation, it adds.

Energy (in)dependence

Domestic gas consumption is currently on the rise in the EU, with imports projected to reach an annual 450 billion cubic metres by 2035. New sources of natural gas could help diversity of supply but other measures are needed to reduce dependence on imports, such as boosting take-up of renewables and energy efficiency, said the Energy Committee.

Next steps

The Energy Committee resolution was adopted with 32 votes in favour, 23 against and 1 abstention. The Environment Committee resolution was adopted with 63 votes in favour, 1 against and 1 abstention. Both are due to be adopted by plenary in October.

In the Chair (Industry and Energy Committee): Amalia Sartori (EPP, IT)

In the Chair (Environment Committee): Matthias Groote (S&D, DE)