Much is at stake. Industry players, who include many of the big oil and gas companies, have used their influence and financial power to ensure that the EU has not introduced new EU wide regulations on fracking in 2013 and 2014.
They have invested in an extensive lobby campaign, targeting the European institutions, national governments, and individual members of the European Parliament (MEPs), as well as recruiting academics and members of the public to support their efforts to capture the political process and block proposals to tighten the regulatory framework.
This report maps out this lobbying offensive by exposing the key players involved, their targets and the tactics employed. It examines the activities of the main shale gas lobby groups and individual companies, drawing on evidence of meetings and correspondence with five key departments in the European Commission, to reveal a web of lobbying activity, incorporating industry players from both sides of the Atlantic, industry lobby groups, professional lobby consultants, MEPs and even national governments.
It finds a distinct divide between the companies’ and lobby groups’ public rhetoric and the details of their policy demands. While the shale gas industry is eager to assure the public that it is committed to extracting shale gas in a safe, environmentally-friendly way, it is investing significant effort and money to convince policy-makers not to impose regulations and pushing to weaken environmental protection laws.
Through industry conferences, meetings, roundtables, dinner-debates and seminars, industry lobbyists have promoted their arguments to officials and politicians, presenting evidence from industry-funded academic studies to back up their case. Officials have been invited on fact-finding visits and to speaker tours to make sure they hear industry’s message, while industry-funded front groups have been deployed to generate “public” support.
Analysis of contact with key Commission directorates involved in the Commission’s impact assessment (DG Environment, Climate Action, Energy, Enterprise and Industry, and Trade) reveals the intensity of the lobby campaign: industry lobby groups sent at least 79 correspondences to the key DGs dealing with shale gas within less than a year. Also the imbalance in the interests represented at the EU level becomes very obvious: based on information obtained by access to documents’ requests, the European Commission met at least 68 times with industry representatives while only six meetings with civil society groups were mentioned.
While environmental NGOs have struggled to make their concerns heard within the Commission, industry representatives, including some who are not officially registered in the Commission and Parliament’s joint transparency register for interest representatives, have invited top level officials to dinners and seminars while distorting the evidence to warn of dire consequences for the European economy if shale gas extraction is regulated.
The on-going free trade agreement negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) have been seized on as offering a backdoor for the US shale gas industry, keen to find a way around the EU’s stricter environmental regulations. Fossil fuel, chemical and industrial equipment companies which have profited enormously from the largely unregulated US shale gas boom have targeted the TTIP negotiations as an opportunity to get rid of “barriers to trade” or “irritants” such as mandatory environmental impact assessments or requirements for community consent.
The report finds that despite blatant misrepresentation of evidence and distortion of facts, the shale gas lobby has clearly succeeded in influencing the Commission’s decision making processes. They have not only successfully deflected rules for stronger environmental impact assessments for shale gas projects, but they have also managed to stop a DG Environment proposal for an EU regulatory framework to address the risks of shale gas in relation to issues such as water pollution, chemical use, public participation.
This raises questions about the European Union’s ability to act in the interests of public safety and the environment.