European Union ponders guidelines for fracking of shale

BRUSSELS — The European Union (EU) plans guidelines for shale drilling, under proposals that may facilitate oil and gas extraction using the contested technique that has brought the US towards energy independence.

The 28 member governments will be urged to follow the nonbinding principles so that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is done safely and without confusion over conflicting environmental regulations among states and the bloc, according to draft recommendations seen by Bloomberg. The guidelines would not interfere with a country’s right to ban the practice.

Investors and explorers have expressed concern that shale prospects may become too difficult to tap compared with places such as the US and Russia because European countries are making a jumble of new laws. France’s Total, banned from fracking at home, on Monday became the largest oil producer to enter the UK’s shale industry.

“As shale-gas exploration activities are progressing, member states have started interpreting the EU environmental legislation in different ways” including bans and moratoriums, the European Commission said in a draft statement to governments to accompany the guidelines. The EU needs a level playing field to respond to a “fast-evolving energy landscape,” it said.

A commission spokesman was not available for comment on the documents, which are due to be adopted by the EU’s regulatory arm on January 22.

The proposal will be part of a package of documents on energy and climate policies to be considered by EU governments.

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