French environmentalist slams prospecting in Poland
Militant French environmentalist and MEP Jose Bove on Thursday slammed shale gas exploration in Poland, after France recently banned a shale gas extraction method regarded as environmentally harmful.
"We know that in Polish villages where there is a large population density, where people get their water mostly from wells, there are tens of thousands of rural Polish families who will be affected and who will be driven away from their homes due to shale gas exploration," Bove told AFP.
In May, France banned hydraulic fracturing, a practice long used in the United States whereby water is pumped deep underground at high pressure to break out gas from the rock.
Environmental groups say the chemicals used in so-called "fracking" and the gasses it releases can contaminate ground water, posing a health hazard.
Earlier Thursday Bove, a leading campaigner against shale gas in France, met with Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk, an avid supporter of developing Poland's shale gas sector.
"I told him in concrete terms what is happening in eastern Poland and gave him a letter from the rural residents of the region," he said. The letter invites Tusk to visit and see for himself the damage caused by shale gas exploration.
Bove also gave Tusk a Polish sub-titled copy of "Gasland", a documentary examining the environmental and health hazards tied to shale gas exploration and extraction.
"Now he can't say he doesn't know the consequences," Bove said.
With Poland gearing up to take over the European Union's six-month rotating presidency on July 1, Bove also said he was lobbying for a European moratorium on shale gas exploration.
Bove also protested at the Warsaw headquarters of French oil giant Total, touting a gallon of water labelled as toxic and dressed up in white overalls.
In March, Total announced it had taken up a 49 percent stake in two Polish shale gas exploration permits alongside US energy giant ExxonMobil.
Poland has already granted over 90 shale gas exploration licences to major international energy companies in the hope of bringing its considerable reserves to market and ending its energy dependence on Soviet-era master Russia.
Initial studies suggest the shale deposits run in a huge 650 kilometre-long (405 mile) diagonal belt across Poland, stretching from the Baltic Sea coast in the north to the eastern border with Belarus and Ukraine.
Experts estimate the deposits could produce some 5.3 trillion cubic metres of natural gas, potentially covering Poland's estimated needs for up to 300 years.
© 2011 AFP