A 6-month moratorium on the research and extraction of shale gas with the usage of a hydraulic fracturing technology /often called fracking/ till the adoption of legislative changes, including an environmental assessment. That was what the parliamentary committee on economic policy, energy and tourism decided after a street pressure, coming from protesters, opposing this new technology in 12 Bulgarian cities and towns. Ecological organizations think that the drillings will pollute underground waters with toxic chemicals. The protests against the intentions of the American Chevron Company to look for shale gas in Northeast Bulgaria grow bigger and bigger. This country has recently asked Brussels whether the environmental assessment is mandatory in cases of such researches and the EC has answered that each state decides on its own. According to Deputy Chair of the Committee Valentin Nikolov there are gaps in the legislation, regarding the extraction of shale gas and those should be corrected.
Data of a January 2012 sociological research, ordered by the economic ministry showed that 75 percent of the polled didn’t mind shale gas surveys, as long as environmental standards were followed. Some 60 percent say that if ledges are available, the government should allow the extraction process, taking into consideration the environmental issue. The attitude of the Bulgarian citizens is directly related to the expectations for concrete benefits. Forecasts for opening of new prestigious jobs, lower prices of the “blue fuel” and lower degree of dependence on foreign gas suppliers – those are the main expectations. A major conclusion – there is a serious lack of information on the subject with the survey and extraction of shale gas, which alarms the population quite a lot.
“I don’t want to be blamed of stopping the possibilities for extraction of shale gas due only to negligence and fear that we will fall from the edge of the earth, if we reach it,” Economy Minister Traicho Traikov said on the committee’s decision. In his opinion, each excessive position is a form of extremism. The texts, adopted by the committee and banning the exploitation of shale gas deposits were compared by the minister with mafia’s methods – “a shot in the heart, the another one in the head and finally cutting of the latter.” Mr. Traikov doesn’t think shale gas is something extraordinary, but proposes a special commission to be created that will give its expert and scientific assessment, before any final decisions are taken. The protests are called “a spontaneous campaign” by the minister. Experts from the committee say the moratorium is a premature decision, since the issue is still discussed worldwide.
The moratorium will be voted Wednesday, January 18 after the decision of the economic committee. A fine of EUR 50 mln. is provided for those, who practice illegal activities of that kind.
The EC should also voice its stand on this matter till the end of the year. Moreover, in the beginning of 2012 it is expected to present its research on shale gas in Europe. According to Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger, the extraction of blue fuel is already changing the global market. According to data of the International Energy Agency, Europe has supplies of 16 trillion m3 of shale gas, as the biggest ledges are situated in Poland. Branch experts foresee that in 2030 global production of untraditional fuel will reach 40 percent of the overall output. Then if the information on 1 trillion m3 of shale gas, hidden on Bulgarian territory is true, then this country has a real chance to reduce drastically its dependence on Russian blue fuel.
English version: Zhivko Stanchev