Czech Environment Minister Tomas Chalupa announced plans for a temporary moratorium on shale gas exploration in the country after about 50,000 people signed a petition expressing concern about the environmental effects of the gas production, The Prague Post reports.
Energy companies use a process called hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas reserves trapped in deep underground rock formations. Some chemicals used in the process could contaminate water supplies.
Supporters of shale natural gas say there may be enough reserves in the Czech Republic to reduce its dependence on Russian natural gas. Russia supplies about 70 percent of the natural gas to the Czech Republic.
Energy companies said exploiting shale would help the local economy and attract foreign investment. Regional governors, however, said they were worried about the potential long-term effects of shale gas development.
"I wouldn't want to find myself in a situation whereby a private company will sue the Czech Republic in arbitration over lost profits only because our laws were not good enough," said Chalupa.
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