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Polish environment minister signals may tweak shale gas draft law

Source: Reuters - Thu, 5 Dec 2013 03:48 PM
Author: Reuters
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WARSAW, Dec 5 (Reuters) - Poland's new environment minister said on Thursday he will meet investors and experts next week to discuss a draft law on shale gas before it goes to the cabinet for approval, signalling that some parts of the legislation may be modified.

Poland, which wants to cut its dependence on Russian gas, had high expectations of its shale reserves but those hopes have faded as a result of poor drilling results, red tape and an uncertain legal environment.

Maciej Grabowski, who formally replaced Marcin Korolec as environment minister a week ago, announced last month that shale gas exploration was his main priority.

On Thursday, he said he wanted the draft law that his predecessor prepared on regulating shale gas exploration and extraction to be sent for government approval "within weeks".

But before that, Grabowski wants to discuss with investors and specialists next week some of the issues that received the most severe criticism from the industry.

"I asked various groups, I mean companies and experts, to speak up. Without a predictable legal environment, investors will not accelerate their work," Grabowski told a news conference.

"Some of the doubts that were expressed earlier were not resolved," he added.

Grabowski said a proposal to create a state-owned operator called NOKE, which would co-own and control the licences, remained undecided.

The industry complained earlier that NOKE's expected profits from shale gas would be disproportionately high in comparison with its costs.

"No decisions have been taken yet," he said.

KING COAL

Despite his ambition to accelerate shale gas operations, Grabowski expressed confidence that highly polluting coal would remain Poland's main source of power generation.

"I cannot imagine Poland giving up its traditional energy sources. New coal-fired investments, though, are less of a burden on the environment. For example, if we build the power plant in Opole, as I hope, this would be more environmentally friendly than keeping the old units".

The project to build a 1.8-gigawatt coal-fired power plant in Opole, southern Poland, is the country's biggest energy venture and has been severely criticised by environmentalists. (Reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko; Editing by Dale Hudson)

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