European Commission consultation

On 23 March 2013 the European Commission closed the consultation on unconventional fossil fuels (e.g. shale gas) in Europe. The consultation follows from the 2012 publication of three studies which examined the potential impact of unconventional gas (e.g. shale gas) on the EU energy markets, the potential impact on the climate, and the potential risks for the environment and human health arising from such projects in Europe.

The consultation was addressed to various stakeholders, including citizens, companies, and other organizations and public authorities. The key questions aimed at gathering views on the benefits and challenges related to the exploration of unconventional fossil fuels, as well as recommendations for potential changes to the applicable regulatory framework (see our previous alert of 14 March 2013 on shale gas exploration for more details).

Stakeholder event

The European Commission is currently analyzing the responses it received and had planned to present the preliminary results of the consultation during a stakeholders' event on 22 April 2013 (see our previous alert of 10 April 2013 on shale gas exploration for more details). This event was not meant to be public, and open registration would not have been permitted. Instead, the Commission proposed to choose the participants from among "the EU federations and trade associations active in oil and gas market so as to cover the whole supply chain."

This approach, however, was not welcomed by some of the stakeholders including Members of the European Parliament who are interested in the subject and were refused the opportunity to participate. In response to this criticism, the European Commission rescheduled the meeting for 7 June 2013, and has made provision for e-mail registrations. In addition, the meeting will be broadcast via webstream for those who cannot attend in person. Click here for more information on the webstream.

Criticism was also addressed to the questionnaire that constituted the basis of the consultation on unconventional fossil fuels. Questions regarding the negative impact of exploration outnumbered those relating to positive effects and some were seen as suggesting the answers were unclear or requiring expert knowledge. Also, during the first month of the three-month consultation, the questionnaire was available only in three out of 23 EU official languages (English, French, and German). It is not clear at this stage whether any of these deficiencies will impact the further process on possible regulation on unconventional fossil fuels.