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Parliamentary questions
3 June 2010
Answer given by Mr Oettinger on behalf of the Commission

While the Second Strategic Energy Review (SEER) recognises that indigenous fossil fuels — including unconventional gas — can contribute to the Security of supply in the EU, studies specifically focused on the environmental aspects and life cycle emissions of shale gas have not been undertaken. At present, in the context of SEER's follow-up, the Commission is taking steps in cooperation with relevant stakeholders to assess the potential of the various forms of unconventional gas, including shale gas, in the EU. In December 2009, a stakeholder meeting in the framework of the Commission's Fossil Fuels Forum addressed the state of play of unconventional gas in the EU. Industry representatives indicated that Europe is in an early exploration stage, i.e. for many potential basins data is incomplete and the production potential is yet to be proven, both technically and commercially.

It should be noted that SEER also foresees that any proposed measure addressing the production of indigenous fossil fuels must consider the environmental impact. Furthermore, the Water Framework Directive (WFD, 2000/60/EC(1)) sets the obligation for Member States to achieve good status for surface and ground waters and to prevent deterioration of the status of these waters. 22 December 2009 was the deadline for Member States to submit a programme of measures to achieve the environmental objectives of the WFD. These programmes should include minimum requirements, inter alia, the prohibition of direct discharges of pollutants into groundwater. However, Member States may authorise some direct discharges under specified conditions provided that the discharges do not compromise the environmental objectives established for the particular body of groundwater. The exploitation of hydrocarbons is specifically mentioned in this context (Article 11(3)j).

It should also be noted that shale rocks are located far below underground waters that provide our drinking water. Water found in and close to the formations containing oil and gas is not drinkable.

Aware of the important recent developments in the field of unconventional gas (especially shale gas and tight gas) in the United States (US), the Commission is looking into the merits of including the subject on the agenda of the EU‑US energy dialogue. The recently established EU‑US Energy Council could be a suitable platform for exchanging views on best practices.

(1)Directive 2000/60/EC of the Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2000 establishing a framework for Community action in the field of water policy, OJ L 327, 22.12.2000.

OJ C 138 E, 07/05/2011
Laatst bijgewerkt op: 8 juni 2010Juridische mededeling