Bulgaria Seeks Permission for Environmental Study Before Allowing Shale Gas Drilling

Energy | November 11, 2011, Friday // 15:59|  views

Environment Minister Nona Karadzhova has given assurances that Bulgaria will examine carefully the impact of shale gas drilling before giving the green light to the activities. Photo by BGNES

Bulgaria has asked the European Commission to allow an additional in-depth environmental impact study to be carried out before the launch of shale gas drilling in the country, according to Environment Minister Nona Karadzhova.

In a Thursday interview for the Bulgarian National Television (BNT), she expressed hopes that EC's response would arrive soon and that it would be positive, thereby enabling Bulgaria to carry out another test before giving the green light to shale gas exploration activities by US Chevron.

Current Bulgarian legislation only requires assessments for the compatibility of the exploration works with the Biodiversity Act and the Protection of Waters and Soil against Pollution Act, Karadzhova explained, as cited by the Bulgarian Telegraph Agency (BTA).

She claimed that although these two tests were sufficiently reliable, Bulgaria would call for an environmental impact assessment (EIA) to be carried out as well.

The Environment Minister assured that no proceedings had been launched because the Environment Ministry had not yet received any shale gas drilling projects.

She further urged people who happen to see shale gas wells or ongoing exploration works to report the case to the Ministry so that it can investigate the illegal activities.

Karadzhova specified, however, that no such reports had been received by the Environment Ministry.

Addressing the audience at the forum, Traicho Trailkov, Minister of Economy, Energy and Tourism, argued that shale gas exploration was the first step that could lead to Bulgaria's energy independence.

He went on to emphasize the importance of examining all reserves at Bulgaria's disposal in times of crisis.

Pointing out shale gas' cost advantage as compared to natural has, Traikov informed that Bulgaria was about to negotiate the final details of the shale gas exploration contract with US Chevron.

Environmentalists in Bulgaria have already staged several protests against shale gas production.

"The EC must be notified that the government is about to grant a shale gas exploration permit to Chevron for a block near Novi Pazar without carrying out a prior EIA. If it does this, it will overstep its authority and commit a crime under the Penal Code," NGO representatives have warned.

After in end-September Prime Minister Boyko Borisov grew annoyed at anti-shale gas activists in Dobrich and threatened to seal a deal out of spite, he withdrew his statement and asked for information about shale gas extraction operations in Europe.

In her Thursday statement, Nona Karadzhova assured that the Prime Minister had undertaken a commitment to block drilling even if it only entailed minimal risks for the country.

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Tags: Nona Karadzhova, Environment Minister, shale gas, environmental activists, Chevron, Traicho Traikov


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