Categories
Europe Water

Spate of New Research on Fracking Shows We (still) Know Very Little About its Impacts

Recent research results on the impacts of fracking show that the large-scale exploitation of shale gas and other unconventional fossil fuels has been allowed to move ahead without properly monitoring its impacts.

Brussels – Recent research results on the impacts of fracking show that the large-scale exploitation of shale gas and other unconventional fossil fuels has been allowed to move ahead without properly monitoring its impacts. Researchers – regardless of their discipline –  who want to study the impacts of fracking on the climate, water and air quality or public health are confronted with the reality that no systematic data-gathering has occurred where fracking is allowed to proceed. Scientists whose work was published in journals like Marine and Petroleum GeologyClimatic Change, The Lancet and The Medical Journal of Australia all come to similar conclusions, namely that publicly available data are scarce to non-existent. This lack of data allows the fossil fuel industry to maintain their speaking point of ‘no data, no problem’ and ‘no reported cases of groundwater contamination due to fracking’. For countries where fracking is allowed to proceed – despite the growing body of evidence of the negative impacts -, Food & Water Europe has long insisted that authorities need to establish strategic monitoring programmes to allow for the early identification of negative impacts on air, water and public health.

“The lack of publicly available data about the impacts of fracking from the US and the complete absence of a strategic monitoring capability in EU Member States for the fracking industry exposes European citizens and their environment to a broad range of risks”. said Food & Water Europe policy officer Geert De Cock. “The precautionary principle should compel the EU and its Member States to impose an immediate moratorium on fracking and unconventional fossil fuels”.

In January 2014, the European Commission launched a non-binding recommendation “minimum principles for the exploration and production of hydrocarbons (such as shale gas) using high volume hydraulic fracturing”. These minimum principles also emphasize the importance baseline data, continuous monitoring and transparency. Unfortunately, the European Commission’s recommendation puts the responsibility for monitoring the impacts of fracking mainly with the operator and shies away from obliging Member States to organise their own, frequent and unaccounted visits of the – typically, very numerous – well pads for unconventional oil and gas drilling. The recommendation also fails to outline credible sanctions for operators that fail to comply with these recommendations. Last but not least, it remains unclear how the European Commission will enforce this non-binding recommendation on recalcitrant Member States.

Contact: Geert Decock tel. +32 (0)2 893 10 45, mobile +32 (0)484 629.491, gdecock(at)fweurope.org