Fracking is a new technology to exploit shale gas trapped inside rocks underground that have to be broken open. While already extensively used in third countries like the US, only a few EU members states started to look for fracking possibilities, for instance, Germany, Poland and the UK. However, there are no EU-wide rules yet.
Because of the great potential risks for the environment as well as human health and with consumers' concerns increasing across Europe the European Commission decided to establish a common framework for fracking in the EU.
Building on existing EU legislation and complementing it where necessary, the European Commission's DG Environment published a so-called "Recommendation". The document "invites" Member States to plan ahead of developments and evaluate possible cumulative effects before granting licences for fracking. Furthermore, environmental impacts and risks have to be carefully assessed, and the quality of the local water, air and soil must be checked before operations start, in order to monitor any changes and deal with emerging risks. Finally, it is recommended to inform the public about chemicals used in individual fracking projects.
The proposed minimum standards are not binding, meaning they do not constitute EU lesgislation nor do Member States have to transfer them into national law. However, Member States which are using the fracking technology are invited to apply the principles within six months and to annually inform the Commission about the measures they put in place. The Commission will review the Recommendation's effectiveness for the first time after 18 months.
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