Today, the German government past ist “Entwurf eines Gesetzes zur Änderung wasser- und naturschutzrechtlicher Vorschriften zur Untersagung und zur Risikominimierung bei den Verfahren der Fracking-Technologie“, commented earlier on here and here.
Today, environmental minister Hendricks, despite considerable concern and opposition in her own coalition, presented the new fracking legislation. The final act got considerably watered down in the course of the legislation procedure. The Coalition agreement included a section on fracking which promoted a very careful and observant attitude towards the technology, whereas the draft as it stands includes a section allowing the commercial extraction of shale gas resources as of 2019. This is however only the exceptional case and provided that an independent expert committee considers the development as unproblematic. This committee is composed of a representative of the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR), a representative of the Federal Environment Agency (UBA), a representative of a State Office of Geology (Landesamtes für Geologie), who is not responsible for the approval of the exploratory drillings, a representative of the Helmholtz Centre Potsdam GFZ German (Helmholtz -Gesellschaft), a representative of the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research Leipzig and lastly an appointed representative of a competent national authority for water management, which is not responsible for the approval of exploratory drillings.
The provisions are applicable to drillings reaching from just below the earth’s surface until a depth of 3000 meters and thus closes a legal loophole. Exploratory drillings, including fracking activities for test purposes are generally possible, provided that authorities and Federal States do not use their veto right. Fracking in water protection areas stays prohibited, as stated in previous drafts.
All in all, the draft, even if watered down from its original version, includes the “requirements” outlined in the Commission minimum-principles and in some cases goes beyond the recommendations. It is not a ticket to ride for industry; the hurdles, especially regarding public opposition at the local level are still quite high. The legislation can enter ito force in 2016 and will be subject to review in 2021.