BRUSSELS, Jan. 23 (UPI) -- European Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik said member states are "invited" to follow a minimum set of guidelines for shale gas exploration.
Several Eastern European countries are said to be rich in shale natural gas deposits though the reserves are either too expensive to exploit or up against moratoriums against the controversial drilling practice called hydraulic fracturing.
Potocnik said there are hopes shale can help address European energy needs but resource extraction is up against public criticism.
"The commission is responding to calls for action with minimum principles that member states are invited to follow in order to address environmental and health concerns and give operators and investors the predictability they need," he said in a statement Wednesday.
Hydraulic fracturing uses large volumes of water laced with trace amounts of chemicals seen as harmful to human health and the environment.
The commission's recommendations call on the industry to use the best safety standards to mitigate risk and urges decisionmakers to "evaluate possible cumulative effects" before granting licenses for shale gas work.
The commission said member states are "invited" to apply the recommendations within six months from December and inform the legislative body each year about the measures they adopt.