| July 30
July 30 Germany's Environment Agency said it
wanted to make fracking practically impossible to head off the
risk that the technique for extracting gas could contaminate
groundwater with chemicals.
The agency's view, in a report on Wednesday, feeds into a
fierce debate about fracking as Chancellor Angela Merkel's
government draws up new rules on water protection and mining,
which will determine the future policy toward fracking.
The report contained recommendations the agency will make to
the government on the new rules.
Hydraulic fracking involves pumping water and chemicals into
rock formations underground to push out gas and other
Many Germans oppose fracking for shale gas because of fears
that it could contaminate drinking water and cause other
"Basically, we believe that the dangers of this technology
are too great," Federal Environment Agency President Maria
Krautzberger told reporters.
"Lawmakers should end this extremely unsatisfactory
situation quickly," she said, adding that while a general ban on
fracking would be legally difficult, fast and tough legal
safeguards could result in a similar effect.
A deterioration in ties with Russia over the Ukraine crisis
has fueled the debate on fracking and raised pressure on Europe,
especially Germany, to cut its reliance on Russian gas.
Guenther Oettinger, the European Commissioner for Energy who
is a member of Merkel's conservatives, said this month Germany
should keep its options open when it comes to fracking.
The Environment Agency advises the environment ministry,
which is jointly responsible with the economy and energy
ministry for drawing up rules affecting fracking.
A spokeswoman for the environment ministry said draft laws
on fracking would be presented to the cabinet after the summer
break. She added that the rules laid out in the water protection
law - the responsibility of the environment ministry - would
mean that fracking would be ruled out in the foreseeable future.
Germany's ruling parties promised in last year's coalition
deal to set a legal framework for fracking, saying it had
significant potential for risk and rejecting the use of
Oettinger has estimated that Europe could get a tenth of its
power needs through the extraction of shale gas.
Germany's Federal Institute for Geosciences (BGR) two years
ago put the country's shale gas potential between 0.7 trillion
and 2.3 trillion cubic meters.
The new guidelines will include environmental audits and a
ban on drilling in places where water is protected.
They are expected, however, to allow fracking to resume for
tight gas, which usually lies deeper underground and poses less
of a risk to groundwater. Fracking had been used in Germany for
decades in tight gas formations until two years ago. Since then,
there has been an effective moratorium on new permits.
Fracking has boomed in the United States, where shale has
become an important source of gas. Industry has warned that
Germany could lose its competitive edge if it does not use its
shale gas reserves, given lower U.S. prices for energy.
(Writing by Emma Anderson; Editing by Madeline Chambers and