shale

OSW: Shale gas in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Romania. Political context – legal status – outlook

07.11.2014 | By Bartosz Bieliszczuk

The report, which was published in 2012, analyzes the situation around shale gas in three countries in Central Europe. Despite the fact that 2 years have already passed, the document’s explanation of the socio-political context of shale gas extraction in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Romania is still valid. This summary recapitulates the report’s main theses and takes a step further to present how the situation in those countries has evolved since 2012 when all of them stopped exploration and production of shale gas.

The report authors, Tomasz Dąborowski and Jakub Groszkowski, analyze the extraction potential, legal environment, public debate and production perspectives of shale gas in all of the three countries. In 2011 their leaders had a positive or neutral view on shale gas. The circumstances in which they decided to ban shale extraction are different in each case. The widespread conviction that Gazprom/Moscow’s pressure was behind this decision does not explain fully why this happened. Aversion to shale gas does not mean the countries do not want to diversify gas supply. Sofia, Prague and Bucharest are expanding their infrastructure as well as inter-system connections and explore for natural gas deposits.

In case of the Czech Republic and Bulgaria the lack of effective information campaign to convince people to shale gas and counterbalance the negative propaganda of ecologists is apparent.

 

BULGARIA

– in January 2012 fracking was banned. However, this decision was not supported by a parliamentary act because Prime minister Bojko Borysow did not support it;

– the Bulgarian media were predominantly against shale gas. Representatives of energy companies were excluded from the public debate. The government limited its message to showing benefits, but avoided difficult and controversial questions especially those related to the environment;

– the opponents of shale gas, including environmental activists, politicians supported by the atom lobby, prepared an effective and professional campaign. Numerous public demonstrations also took place.

– there were no public consultations or a real parliamentary debate;

– there are no signs that would indicate that Bulgaria will back out of this decision in the near future.

What has changed since 2012

– Prime Minister Boyko Borisov stepped down in March 2013 after a wave of protests, but his party won the 2014 elections with a 30% vote and Borisov will most probably become the PM again.

– Bulgarian Chamber of Mining and Geology called for the government to lift the ban

– in 2014 Chevron left Bulgaria

 

THE CZECH REPUBLIC

– in September 2012 a moratorium on shale gas exploration was introduced. It was valid until June 2014. During that time the Czech geological law was amended. Until 2014 only companies that comply with a number of terms and conditions including environmental protection or a specified number of rigs, will be allowed to pursue shale gas projects.

– the Czech public is not convinced that unconventional gas might have an important impact on the economy. Because of the country’s difficult environmental history, Czechs are very cautious when it comes to the environment

– 2 concessions were awarded without consultations with local governments that then successfully exerted pressure to cancel the permissions. The “anti” and “pro” camps are not divided according to political affiliations. Local politicians are against extraction in their constituencies.

– environmental activists have the initiative in the public debate. Companies do not participate in it visibly.

– Czechs are interested in developing shale gas sector in Poland in the context of gas imports.

What has changed since 2012

– in 2013 a scandal swept Petr Necas from ODS off the political scene. Bohuslav Sobotka from CSSD took over the reins

– once the Mining Act is drafted, discussions on the complete ban on fracking proposed by some MPs will start.

 

ROMANIA

– Romania was the most popular country among foreign investors out of all the states that were included in the report;

– Romania did not introduce a legal ban on shale extraction, but in result of some political decisions, a real moratorium on extraction lasted until December 2012 (when parliamentary elections took place);

– in June 2012, the Senate rejected a bill that proposed a complete ban on fracking. The project was submitted by Ponta’s government members when they were still in opposition (Ponta took over the power in May 2012);

– in Romania the biggest controversy was sparked not by shale extraction, but by the unclear way in which Chevron received a concession from the previous government (the politicians are here to blade as the company demanded more transparency). This issue was noticed and widely commented by the public opinion;

– the opposition incorporated the shale issue into a wider context (privatization of state-owned companies, relations with local communities with regard to various investments);

– environmental activists and opponents of shale gas are not very active in Romania. Therefore, the political situation will be the deciding factor in the shale gas development

What has changed since 2012

– Victor Ponta’s Social Liberal Union, that includes the Social Democratic Party, won the December 2012 parliamentary elections (almost 70% of the vote). Ponta is running in the presidential elections that will take place at the beginning of November.

– the moratorium ended in March 2013

– protests against shale gas continue (Greenpeace was blocking Chevron’s shale exploration site in the summer of 2014), Ponta supports shale extraction, but did not announce any acts that would regulate the extraction. In his opinion, the gas will not be extracted for another 5 years.

– Chevron continues its work in Romania

 

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