* Commission next year to propose regulatory framework
* Shale gas supporters welcome the vote
* Greens, environmentalists wanted a ban
BRUSSELS, Nov 21 (Reuters) - EU politicians rejected a ban
on shale gas, while calling for a robust regulatory regime to
address environmental and other concerns, in a series of votes
on Wednesday in the European Parliament.
A shale gas revolution has swept the United States, lowering
gas prices and helping to displace more polluting coal.
Europe is looking on with interest, if not envy, as the
United States moves towards energy independence and gets an
economic boost from cheap fuel.
But the prospect of extensive shale gas development in
Europe is complicated by land ownership rules, higher population
density and environmental concerns about the fracking process
used to extract natural gas from shale.
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, involves pumping water
containing chemicals into shale rock formations at high pressure
and critics say it risks contaminating aquifers as well as
potentially causing earth tremors.
Although Wednesday's votes rejected a call for a ban on new
fracking activity, saying European Union member states had the
right to explore their reserves, they also took a cautious line.
Votes on two separate reports struck out sentences pushing
for swift shale gas development.
The rejected lines included one that shale gas could "play a
critical role" in the transition to low-carbon power generation
and another on supporting "a high level of sustainable shale gas
The European Commission is expected next year to deliver a
framework on managing the risks and addressing shortcomings in
relevant EU regulation.
"Studies carried out indicate that there are a number of
uncertainties or gaps in current EU legislation," Environment
Commissioner Janez Potocnik said in a statement.
"Addressing health and environmental risks will be of
paramount importance for the industry to gain broad public
Wednesday's parliamentary votes are not binding, but are a
political signal to Commission law-drafters.
Shale gas supporters welcomed them, while environmentalists
and Green politicians praised the mood of caution, but had
wanted a ban.
"This implies that member states should think twice before
allowing any projects of this controversial technology to go
ahead," Carl Schlyter, Swedish Green member of the European
Parliament, said in a statement.
Shale Gas Europe, a new body backed by oil and gas firms,
including Chevron, Statoil and Royal Dutch
Shell, said the parliament had called for shale gas
exploration and ensuring it was done sustainably.
"Shale Gas Europe fully supports those goals and will keep
engaging with citizens and decision-makers by listening to and
addressing concerns relating to shale gas," spokeswoman Monica