Poland Sets out to Accelerate Shale Gas Exploration and Extraction

By Katarzyna Branny, April 9, 2013

Resources (NOKE S.A., a state-owned corporation that would be established to ensure sustainable management of hydrocarbons). Content of the cooperation agreement concerning sharing of profits, reporting, terms of cooperation, etc., would be specified in further legislation issued by the Environment Minister. However, the Proposal explicitly states that the NOKE S.A. will not share more than 5 percent of the costs. Despite this, signing a cooperation agreement with NOKE S.A. would be the only way to obtain an official permit.

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)
The Proposal introduces significant changes to environmental requirements and, if adopted, it would relax the current standards. These amendments include:
Exploratory shale gas wells drilled to 5,000 meters underground would not require an EIA. Under the current provisions, wells up to 1,000 meters are exempt from an EIA.
The Proposal would reduce the area subject to the environmental assessment to 500 meters from the external border of the enterprise. The EIA would start after determining the precise location of drillings. Currently, the assessment is required before the exploration permit is issued and the environmental procedures sometimes concern areas of up to 1,200 sq. kilometers. The Proposal would limit it to 2 sq. kilometers.

The EIA would not be required when the terms of permits are amended due to deepening of exploratory wells, changes in the schedule of the works or changes in permit holders.
The environmental permit, which prescribes the environmental requirements for a particular enterprise [decyzja środowiskowa] would not be required before obtaining the exploration and extraction permit, as it is under the current law. Companies would only need to obtain it before commencing the extraction phase [decyzja inwestycyjna] or before obtaining a decision approving the mining site operation plan [decyzja zatwierdzająca plan ruchu zakładu górniczego].

Chemicals Used in Fracking
In order to ensure transparency of the shale gas exploration and extraction process, the Proposal would make information about the chemical composition of fracking fluids available to the public. Therefore, the composition of fracking fluids would not be considered a “trade secret”.

As the Proposal moves forward, be sure to pay special attention to the developments in Poland if you have operations there or are considering exploration opportunities. Only time will tell what economic and environmental impacts develop due to the regulatory easing.

The Proposal for an amendment to the Geological and Mining Act was published on 15 February 2013 and is available on the Environment Ministry’s website.

Katarzyna Branny works at Enhesa, Inc. where she is a regulatory consultant for Poland and the European Union. Katarzyna Branny regularly monitors developments in Poland and in the European Union and works on audit protocols. She holds a Master’s degree from the George Washington Law School, as well as a Law Degree from the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. She is also a member of Polish and Washington DC bars.