In October, MEPs narrowly agreed to support proposals to amend the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive to include shale gas projects. This would have provided a mandate for risk assessments to be carried out for both the exploration and the extraction stages. However, changes to the Directive could only take place in co-decision with the European Council, and the proposals were blocked during discussions in December. As a result the EIA will not be modified.
In the UK the EA already requires environmental impact assessments as part of the planning process but the inclusion of a requirement in European legislation would have strengthened and supported this. The Commission will now announce its approach to legislating specifically for shale gas and the expectation is that this will take the shape of a proposed Directive. Despite this uncertainly in Europe, in November Water UK agreed a memorandum of understanding with UK shale gas operators that will encourage the impacts on water and engagement with water companies to be considered in the early stages of planning.
Water UK press release
Water UK policy position, November 2013