Time is running out to respond to the European Commission shale gas consultation

The deadline for submitting responses to the European Commission (“EC”) public consultation on “Unconventional fossil fuels (e.g. shale gas) in Europe” is only days away. Respondents only have until 23 March 2013 to submit their responses.

The aim of this consultation is for individuals, organisations and public authorities to share their views on the opportunities and challenges that may arise from the development of unconventional fossil fuels, including shale gas, in Europe.

The results of the consultation are expected to be highly influential to policy makers.  Contributions to the consultation will feed into the EC’s “Environmental, Climate and Energy Assessment Framework to Enable Safe and Secure Unconventional Hydrocarbon Extraction” framework. This framework is important as it is intended to manage risks, address regulatory shortcomings and provide maximum legal clarity and predictability to market operators and citizens across the EU in relation to unconventional fossil fuels.

However, this internet based consultation is only part of the EC’s wider efforts to consult with relevant stakeholders and the public on this topic. The consultation process will also involve regular meetings with Member States and other stakeholders, with a stakeholders' event to be organized by the EC’s DG Environment on 22nd April 2013.

Whilst industry will generally welcome the opportunity to provide information to EU policy makers some stakeholders have criticised the delivery and content of the consultation questionnaire.

Concerns have been raised for example, that the questionnaire does not meet the basic criteria required for a public opinion survey.  Also, that respondents in certain Member States have been disadvantaged as the questionnaire was not made available in their local language for the first month of the consultation giving them less time to consider their responses. This has led some stakeholders to call for the consultation process to be repeated.

The consultation responses will be made publicly available therefore, despite the criticisms the consultation will be welcomed by many as an opportunity to have a balanced, informative and engaging debate on shale gas and other unconventional fossil fuels. 

The deadline for responses is 23 March 2013 (responses should be submitted via the European Commission’s website here).