On January 22, 2014, the European Commission published its Communication and Recommendation on Shale Gas.  The documents finally published are essentially the same as the draft versions that we reported in our blog post of January 17, 2014 and only introduce minor changes.

Among other things, the Recommendation now confirms that it “neither implies that Member States are under any obligation to pursue the exploration or exploitation of activities using high volume hydraulic fracturing if they choose not to nor that Member States are prevented from maintaining or introducing more detailed measures.”  The Recommendation also clarifies the definition of high volume hydraulic fracturing, which “means injecting 1000 m3 or more of water per fracturing stage or 10 000 m3 or more of water during the entire fracturing process into a well.”

In the Communication finally published the Commission makes two additional announcements.  First, the Commission intends to establish a European Science and Technology Network on Unconventional Hydrocarbon Extraction that will collect, analyse and review results from exploration projects and assess the development of technologies used in unconventional gas and oil projects.  Second, the Commission will propose to the European Chemicals Agency to change the existing EU REACH database of registered chemicals to improve and facilitate the search of information on registered substances used for hydraulic fracturing purposes.

Note: Luca Tosoni is a trainee-lawyer in Covington’s Brussels office. He received his J.D. from the University of Milan.