Australia: The Victorian government has released a report on managing the risks and impacts of unconventional gas. The report (issued by the Auditor-General’s Office, an independent arm of the legislature that is somewhat similar to the Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) in the US) concludes that the current Victorian regulatory framework cannot adequately regulate unconventional gas activities or respond to risks and recommends that the government use the moratorium period to make the appropriate revisions to its regulations. Also in Victoria, the Parliamentary Inquiry into Unconventional Gas has released its interim report, detailing the activities of the inquiry over the past twelve weeks, background information on unconventional gas activity, central themes that have emerged thus far, and work that remains. The committee noted that it has received an unprecedented number of responses. Also in Australia, new regulations governing petroleum and geothermal energy resources have gone into effect in Western Australia. The regulations provide a risk-based management scheme for the exploration and production of petroleum and geothermal energy resources. The Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association has welcomed the regulations as enhancing community confidence in oil and gas activities.
Canada: The British Columbia Ministry of Natural Gas Development has released a review of the province’s hydraulic fracturing regulatory framework, prepared in response to a request from the British Columbia Oil and Gas Commission (“BCOGC”) for an assessment of the current regulatory framework governing HF—including legislation, regulation, guidance, leading practices, policies, permit conditions, and industry standards—and opportunities to improve the framework. Also in British Columbia, the BCOGC has amended its regulations to require well permit holders to take certain action if a seismic event occurs within a 3-kilometer radius of a well pad during HF or disposal operations. Meanwhile, the newly-elected New Democratic Party in Alberta has announced a review of the mandate of the Alberta Energy Regulator (“AER”). The AER was created in 2013 as the regulatory body for oil, gas, oil sands, and coal projects in the province.
EU: In June, the European Parliament (“EP”) voted to reject a report on European Energy Security Strategy. An amendment to the report had been adopted that proposed that Member States ban shale gas activities until they are proven safe. Because the whole report was rejected, the adoption of the amendment relating to the ban ultimately was only symbolic. It nevertheless sent a political message to the European Commission (“EC”) that placed HF back on the EU agenda. Later that month, the EC’s Directorate General Environment held a stakeholder event in Brussels to discuss shale gas in the EU and the EC’s recommendations regarding shale gas. It was made clear that the event was intended to receive stakeholder views and no indication of the EC’s position was given. Further information and outcomes are expected later this year.
United Kingdom: Over the past quarter, UK Government support has moved from pro-HF rhetoric to legislative and policy developments designed to support the growth of the UK shale gas industry. Last month the Department for Energy and Climate Change (“DECC”) published a series of measures designed to ensure that planning applications for shale gas exploration are fast-tracked. This includes the Government monitoring the decisions and identifying councils that take longer than the statutory timeframe of 16 weeks to decide on HF/shale gas applications. For councils that fail to meet this deadline, the Government will then consider whether it should make the decision. The Government will now also consider calling in appeal applications so that it can determine any appeals.
Germany: Germany’s Federal Parliament is still considering the draft German HF legislation. As part of the legislative procedure, two public hearings have taken place involving representatives from German industry, scientific communities, and NGOs. At these hearings, environmental organizations called for HF to be prohibited while representatives from industry expressed their support for the legislation. Discussion focused on the creation of an expert commission, including its composition, decision making powers, and the role it would play in determining permit applications.