Fracking Bill to be Submitted to Parliament in Q1 2015

A bill regulating the controversial fracking technology shall be submitted to Parliament in the first quarter of 2015, the government announced today in a meeting of the Committee for Economics and Energy. There had been rumours in June this year  that a bill would be presented to Parliament soon.

The protection of nature and drinking water had top priority the government said. Fracking shall not be permitted in national and wildlife parks. Besides the burden of proof for damages shall lie “with the companies” the press release says (probably meaning that there is a reversal of the burden of proof in case of damages).

The conservative CDU/CSU parliamentary group welcomed that an environmental impact assessment shall be made compulsory. The Social Democrats (SPD) emphasised the need for ground water protection, but also highlighted the benefits of the method of extracting natural gas. The opposition expressed concern.

The fracking technology is a mining technique which creates fractures in rocks and rock formations by injecting a liquid (usually water) mixed with sand and chemicals into cracks in the rock to force them further open, thus making it possible to extract nat­ural gas and oil that lies within rock for­ma­tions deep beneath the earth’s surface. While this technology lead to a gas boom in the US, environmental concerns, mainly regarding drinking water, have so far prevented to introduce a specific legal regime in Germany.

A study carried out in 2012 by the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR) on the potential of shale gas in Germany from May 2012 identified shale gas deposits of between 6.8-22.6 trillion cubic meters, with a median value of 13 trillion cubic meters of gas in place. Assuming a technically recoverable rate of 10%, this leads to between 0.7 and 2.3 trillion cubic meters, with a median of 1.3 trillion cubic meters.

In 2013 the then ruling Conservative/Liberal government made an attempt to regulate fracking. The Economics Ministry lead by Liberal Economics Minister Philipp Rösler and the Environment Ministry lead by Conservative Peter Altmaier agreed on a joint proposal, which provided for strict conditions for fracking, making an environmental impact assessment and the involvement of the water authorities and agreement with them mandatory as well as outlawing fracking in drinking water protection areas. Yet the opposition, which at the time included the Social Democrats, called the proposal still too far-reaching and members of the ruling CDU coalition partner also asked for still stricter conditions. Hence, the Conservative/Liberal government finally decided not to agree on the bill, which was consequently not submitted to Parliament.

For the time being fracking projects have to be approved by the competent mining authorities pursuant to existing mining law.

In 2012 the state of North Rhine-Westphalia decided to stop granting permits for fracking for the time being, citing insufficient information about the technology and possible risks to the environment. The government of state of Lower Saxony, which has some of the highest gas resources in Germany, has however presented a draft of a decree allowing fracking under strict conditions in March 2014. Former German EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger urged Germany during his time as Commissioner to at least test the latest fracking technologies.

Source: Bundestag (Parliament)

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