The Czech Republic has announced it will not allow exploration of shale gas deposits if it would harm the country’s environment.The Cabinet announced the decision on February 20. It also asked the Ministry of Environment to report by August 31 about the impacts of shale gas exploration around the world, and to work with the Ministry of Industry and the Czech Mining Office to come up with recommendations for changes to current legislation on the matter by October 31, 2013.
The decision has pleased neither side in the dispute over shale gas exploration. The companies that were planning to start the exploration now say they want to take the issue to the courts.
The government had previously rejected an amendment drafted by parliament deputies from the Czech Social Democratic Party and the Public Issues party (both part of the opposition), which proposed a ban on shale has exploration and extraction. The MP wanted to impose fines of over $100,000 USD for exploration activities, and half a million dollars for hydraulic fracturing.
The country’s environment minister, Tomás Chalupa, said there was no point in prohibiting exploration because in 20 years, the technology used for the purpose could be much more environmentally friendly.
“It wouldn’t be fair for us to tell future generations how they should behave,” he said.
The minister declared his opposition to a total ban on exploiting local shale gas deposits back in November, proposing instead that a moratorium be declared until 2014, during which time the government would define the terms for exploration activities.
Eva Janecková of local NGO Stromodení warned that the chemicals used in fracking could threaten drinking water supplies.
Jirí Malík, head of a national campaign called Stop HF (for “hydraulic fracturing”) said his organization had already sent the government two open letters describing the possible dangers of the process, but both were ignored.
Martin Holy, director of the Environment Ministry’s geology section, told Czech public television station CT 24 that hydraulic fracturing is the only way to find out whether there is any natural gas underground.
If there are deposits, they would probably be in the northeastern parts of Bohemia and Moravia, and between Prague and the town of Beroun, he added.