Stop this reckless attempt to shackle shale gas exploration, says Scots MEP

The search for potential deposits of much-needed shale gas could be severely hampered if MEPs are allowed to press ahead with proposals for over-zealous restrictions, a senior Conservative warned today.

Scottish Conservative MEP Struan Stevenson spoke out after the European Parliament’s Environment Committee controversially voted to include shale gas exploration on a list of activities which could only be allowed after a detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

The Committee has been reviewing the EU’s EIA Directive in response to the European Commission’s desire to streamline the Directive, making sure that unnecessary EIAs are prevented and ensuring that those still required are conducted properly.

Projects seen as needing compulsory EIAs are listed in Annex 1 of the current Environmental Assessment Directive.

Conservatives have no objection to the principle of shale gas projects being included in Annex 1, but strongly oppose the wording of an amendment approved by the committee today which includes the word “exploration”.

Speaking from Brussels, Mr Stevenson, European Conservative and Reformists (ECR) Group Shadow Rapporteur on the proposed legislation, said:

“This reckless wording could stop shale gas exploration in its tracks.

“It means that people who just want to search around for possible shale deposits, even without actually excavating, will have to do a full EIA. This would be a huge burden and will prevent the exploitation of Britain’s massive shale reserves, which include substantial deposits in Scotland.

“Shale gas is potentially a huge resource for the UK and for Europe as a whole. We strongly believe in proceeding with caution - keeping a close eye on environmental and ecological risk but favouring exploitation of this exciting opportunity wherever it can done safely and cleanly.”

Struan concluded:

“Targeting exploration in this unnecessary way amounts to stifling the potential benefits at source.

“We must stop this over-zealous attempt to place a dead hand on the process of exploration before it even gets going.”