The Greentards in the EU have possibly given a “get out of the EU” card to UKIP and the euro-sceptic members of the Conservative party.
The European Parliament has narrowly voted in favour of extending the EIA Directive to cover all “exploration and exploitation of non-conventional hydrocarbons” where fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is used, regardless of the size of the project. Under current rules, only those natural gas projects that extract at least 500,000 cubic metres each day require an EIA before they can proceed.
An EIA, which can take up to a year or longer to complete, requires developers to survey the environmental impact of a projects across multiple areas such as ecology, air quality and geology as well as on the population.
On the face of it this is not so terrible as any development should be fully scrutinised but this will take possibly years to get through the EU system and then a year or more for each application to complete the environmental survey The consultants in the meantime will be celebrating with the finest champagnes at the swankiest restaurants as their future is made.
Responding to the proposals, the EU’s Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said that the vote paved the way for “much-needed changes” that would modernise the current EIA Directive.
“Fundamentally, it’s a vote of confidence in what has always been one of the foundations of EU environment policy, a key piece of legislation that ensures the concerns of citizens are taken into account when important new developments are needed,” he said. “We will now be carefully examining the proposed amendments.”
With the experience of the dead hand of European legislation, often gold plated as introduced into UK law, this has the potential to de-rail the non conventional gas bonanza in the UK unless the Cabinet shows some backbone and takes control.
I have always said that this opportunity must be coupled with strong over-sight, supportive of community concerns, and using established UK bodies with experience in this field to licence and promote. The DECC should be kept well away as their track record does not instil confidence.