Poland to veto EU shale gas rules

Sept. 30, 2011 at 6:21 AM
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KRAKOW, Poland, Sept. 30 (UPI) -- Poland will veto any attempt by the European Commission to institute EU-wide rules regulating the shale gas sector, a government adviser said this week.

Maciej Olex-Szczytowski, a special adviser on economics and business to Poland's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, contended at a Krakow conference on shale gas Wednesday that a European regulatory framework isn't necessary.

His comments came less than a month after EU energy chief Gunther Oettinger told a Polish parliamentary group the European Commission is considering proposing common standards on the Europe-wide production of shale gas.

Poland, estimated to have recoverable shale gas resources of 5.3 trillion cubic meters, is host to a quickly developing industry in which major players such as Exxon Mobil are ramping up explorations.

Olex-Szczytowski said Warsaw, which holds the six-month rotating presidency of the European Union, would issue a veto on such standards because member states have the exclusive rights to develop their own energy mix, the Warsaw alternative energy trade journal Cleantech Poland reported.

"It's a national matter only," he said, adding the EU already has several regulations affecting development of shale gas.

"The EU's environmental regime is very strict and ensures total control and safety of unconventional gas production," Olex-Szczytowski said. "Unconventional gas also fits the EU climate policy and it will foster the EU goals of economic efficiency and energy independence.

"The EU shouldn't be impeding unconventional gas but it should support it," he said.

The Polish official said his government should try to counter environmental concerns about shale gas, the trade journal reported.

Fears of groundwater contamination and air pollution caused by the hydraulic fracturing process used to release the gas have resulted in a ban on shale exploration in France.

"Poland should defuse local concerns (about shale gas) and counterbalance hostile propaganda," Olex-Szczytowski said, adding the country should also closely monitor the European Commission's energy, environment and climate directorates as well as the European Parliament on shale gas matters.

Oettinger told members of the European People's Party's Sept. 9 in Wroclaw, Poland, that economic and environmental concerns about the quickly developing shale gas industry needed to be addressed, the Brussels weekly Europolitics reported.

"I think we'll get a high level of acceptance (of shale gas) when we have the same, European common standards, a high level of safety, security and quality for environmental interests," he said.

The EU energy chief added member states needed to have "environmental protection standards" under which they could "grant licenses within a clear framework."

The weekly said shale gas was the subject of a European Council on energy held in February, in which the body heard such unconventional fossil fuels had the potential to increase Europe's gas reserves by more than 50 percent.

More evidence that Poland's shale gas activity is quickly expanding was unveiled at Wednesday's Krakow conference when an Exxon Mobil official said hydraulic fracturing will begin next week on the multinational's second test well in Poland, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Jim Johnston, board member of Exxon Mobil Exploration and Production Poland, said the new well was to be drilled at near the eastern town of Siennica.

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