Ber­lin frack­ing bill crit­i­cised ahead of UN cli­mate talks

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

For months, the Ger­man gov­ern­ment has been work­ing on a bill that would le­galise frack­ing. But en­vi­ron­ment and health ad­vo­cates warn that it sends the wrong mes­sage ahead of the UN Cli­mate Con­fer­ence in Paris, ac­cord­ing to a re­port by EurAc­tiv Ger­many.

Sharp crit­i­cism has been di­rected at a gov­ern­ment pro­posal for a law to per­mit ex­ploita­tion of crude oil and nat­u­ral gas us­ing the con­tro­ver­sial frack­ing tech­nique.

Not only do the pro­posed draft reg­u­la­tions ne­glect the pro­tec­tion of hu­man be­ings, na­ture and wa­ter, warned en­vi­ron­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions such as BUND, NABU and the Al­lianz der Of­fentlichen Wasser­wirtschaft (AOW) at a meet­ing in Ber­lin.

On top of that, they said, the in­ten­tion to boost a con­ven­tional method of en­ergy pro­duc­tion con­tra­dicts Ger­many’s pledge to fo­cus on ex­pan­sion of re­new­able en­ergy sources.

“The Ger­man gov­ern­ment’s pro­pos­als for a frack­ing reg­u­la­tion are noth­ing more than a placebo,” said Liselotte Unseld, sec­re­tary-gen­eral of Ger­man League for Na­ture, An­i­mal Pro­tec­tion En­vi­ron­ment (DNR).

In the medium and long-term, frack­ing can­not be pre­vented in this way, she warned, adding that the gov­ern­ment’s drafts for a leg­isla­tive bill con­tra­dict cli­mate, en­ergy and na­ture con­ser­va­tion pol­icy goals.

Ger­man En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Bar­bara Hen­dricks and Eco­nomic Af­fairs Min­is­ter Sig­mar Gabriel plan to pro­hibit frack­ing in so-called sen­si­tive ar­eas, which are vi­tal as sources of drink­ing wa­ter or for con­ser­va­tion pur­poses.

The mea­sure would also not al­low frack­ing, which uses a chem­i­cal mix to frac­ture rock, to be car­ried out above 3,000 me­tres. In this way, drink­ing wa­ter pol­lu­tion is ruled out. Frack­ing tech­niques would, how­ever, be al­lowed for re­search the and pur­poses ex­ceed­ing a depth of 3,000 me­tres – as long as it is per­mit­ted by min­ing and wa­ter au­thor­i­ties. A cer­tifi­cate from an in­de­pen­dent ex­pert com­mis­sion con­firm­ing trial drillings as suc­cess­ful could then re­sult in com­mer­cial use of frack­ing tech­nol­ogy in iso­lated cases.

Ger­many’s gov­ern­ing coali­tion, con­sist­ing of the cen­treright Chris­tian Democrats (CDU) and Chris­tian So­cial Union (CSU) as well as the So­cial Demo­cratic Party (SPD), em­pha­sised that the legs­la­tion places the ut­most value on wa­ter and health pro­tec­tion.

Gu­drun Kordecki, from the con­sor­tium of en­vi­ron­ment rep­re­sen­ta­tives in Ger­many’s evan­gel­i­cal church, takes a dif­fer­ent view. She said th­ese ar­eas are not the only ones where the Ger­man gov­ern­ment is tak­ing sig­nif­i­cant risks. Ber­lin is also con­tra­dict­ing all ef­forts made for cli­mate pro­tec­tion, Kordecki ar­gued.

“If un­con­ven­tional nat­u­ral gas de­posits are ex­ploited us­ing frack­ing, this will be the wrong kind of mes­sage for the UN Cli­mate Con­fer­ence sched­uled to take place in Paris in De­cem­ber,” she pointed out.

Ger­many, Kordecki said, should leave th­ese gas re­serves in the ground for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions and, in­stead, in­vest in re­new­able en­ergy sources and con­sis­tently ex­pand strate­gies for en­ergy ef­fi­ciency and suf­fi­ciency.

The cen­tre-right and SPD had agreed in the coali­tion agree­ment “to push the shift from an econ­omy pri­mar­ily based on fos­sil fu­els to one built on re­new­able re­sources and ef­fi­cient, thereby sup­port­ing the En­ergiewende”.

A re­cent study in­di­cated that this path is nec­es­sary to reach the coun­try’s cli­mate pro­tec­tion tar­gets. To do this, the ma­jor­ity of fos­sil fu­els still avail­able must be left in the ground, the study’s au­thors said.

Oliver Kalusch from the Net­work Against Gas Drilling ac­cused the Ger­man gov­ern­ment of ig­nor­ing such find­ings.

“The Ger­man gov­ern­ment wants to cre­ate a frack­ing law that is tai­lored to the gas in­dus­try,” he crit­i­cised.

Sim­i­lar crit­i­cism of the frack­ing bill was heard from within the gov­ern­ment’s own ranks.

“I as­sume that the SPD min­is­ters have hur­ried ahead to draft weak frack­ing re­stric­tions be­cause they are un­der pres­sure from the al­lied Union for Min­ing, Chem­i­cals and En­ergy,” CDU Bun­destag MP An­dreas Mat­tfeldt told the Rheinis­che Post.

Mat­tfeldt called for con­sid­er­ably higher hur­dles for the con­tro­ver­sial tech­nol­ogy. “By no means do the planned re­stric­tions go far enough,” said Mat­tfeldt. He called for the reg­u­la­tions to be adapted to fit the new level of tech­nol­ogy.

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