Bulgarian Parliament Sets Up Committee on Shale Gas despite Moratorium
The Bulgarian Parliament has formed a temporary committee to study, analyze, and discuss "good practices and legislative solutions" on the regulation of exploration and extraction of mineral and energy resources.
It is widely believed, however, that the major purpose of the newly founded committee is to deal with the issue of shale gas exploration and extraction – even though at the beginning of 2012 the Bulgarian Cabinet of PM Boyko Borisov and the center-right GERB party approved a moratorium on shale gas exploration amidst mass environmentally motivated protests.
The new parliamentary committee is created about a year after the GERB Cabinet granted a EUR 30 M shale gas exploration concession to Chevron – which spurred the mass protests out of concerns that the shale gas hyrdofracking technology can pollute underground water in all of Northeastern Bulgaria.
The new parliamentary committee will technically be controlled by GERB because it will have 13 MPs as members, and of those 6 will belong to the GERB party, 2 will be from the opposition Socialists, 2 from the ethnic Turkish party DPS, 1 from the nationalist party Ataka, 1 from the rightist Blue Coalition, and 1 independent.
The new committee is supposed to work for two months, according to GERB MP Dian Chervenkondev, who presented the proposal in Parliament.
The nationalist party Ataka was quick to slam the rulers' initiative declaring that the real name of the parliamentary committee should be "a committee for restoring the shale gas exploration rights of Chevron."
"Things are pretty clear after the GERB party terminated the project for the construction of the Belene NPP," stated Ataka MP Ventsislav Lakov.
On Tuesday, US Ambassador to Bulgaria James Warlick expressed hopes in favor of the forming of a parliamentary committee in order to spur a proper public debate on shale gas.
Deputy Economy Minister Valentin Nikolov who was a GERB MP until recently hailed the Parliament's move, saying a Parliament needs to create regulations, not moratoriums. He did assume, however, that it is possible for the new committee to propose a total ban of shale gas exploration.
"The Prime Minister said he was against lifting the moratorium until he was not convinced that the environment is protected. Do you think I will go against the Prime Minister," Nikolov said, while also not ruling out the possibility that hydrofracking might turn out to be among the "good practices".
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