On 22 May, the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Environmental Policy, Use of Natural Resources and Liquidation of Consequences of Chornobyl Disaster held hearings entitled “Environmental problems of shale gas extraction in Ukraine” initiated and organized by the head of the Committee Iryna Sekh. The Committee hearings were attended by deputies, staff of the Verkhovna Rada committees, representatives of central and local authorities, scientists, representatives of environment protecting NGOs, representatives of Shell and Chevron companies.
Iryna Sekh opened the hearings and emphasized that on the one hand shale gas is important energy resource among unconventional fuels but on the other hand potential environmental problems related to shale gas development in Ukraine cause public protests. As Iryna Sekh stated, we have an obvious problem – lack of comprehensive and open discussion of the issue, which makes impossible adoption of reasonable decision affecting millions of people. The head of the Committee reminded that at the initiative of the Committee on Environmental Policy, Use of Natural Resources and Liquidation of Consequences of Chornobyl Disaster the Verkhovna Rada registered draft Resolution “On holding parliamentary hearings entitled “Environmental problems of shale gas extraction in Ukraine”” (registration #2030 of 17.01.2013), but it was not adopted by the Verkhovna Rada. Then the Committee decided to hold hearings of the issue in the Committee on 22.05.2013 involving central authorities, scientists and the public to have wide discussion and promote solution of environmental problems related to shale gas exploration and extraction, assessment of risks for the environment and adoption of a reasonable decision in this issue.
Presentations of the councilor of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources of Ukraine and representative of State Service of Geology and Minerals of Ukraine focused on the national balance of reserves of hydrocarbons in geological structures of Ukraine, information on the winners of the competition for concluding product sharing agreements for Yuzivska (Kharkiv and Donetsk regions) and Olesko (Lviv and Ivano-Frankivsk regions) fields and on hydraulic fracturing technology. Presentation of the councilor of the Ministry of Environment proved that the Ministry first of all lobbies the issue while it is not particularly concerned about environmental risks related to shale gas exploration and extraction, which distorts the philosophy of the Ministry. There were usual presentations of representatives of the companies who spoke about wonderful perspectives for the country while giving no analysis of the Agreement “On distribution of hydrocarbons to be extracted in the Yuzivska field” concluded between the state of Ukraine, Shell Exploration and Production Ukraine Investment (IV) B.V. and Nadra Yuzivska Ltd nor giving full analysis of chemicals to be used or specific numbers of economic benefits for the country. Their discourse was full of Conditional Mood (we believe if ….) and PR-information on “modern international standards”, “readiness for cooperation and complete openness” (while the Agreement remains secret!) and “myths and ungrounded suspicions, fears causing political speculations…” The only thing the stylistics of their presentations lacked was accusing the public of “being agents of Gasprom”.
Expert position of environment protecting NGOs was presented by International public interest environmental law organization “Environment-People-Law (Olena Kravchenko), Bureau of Environmental Investigations (Dmytro Skylnikov), the National Environmental Center of Ukraine (Iaroslav Movchan), “Mama-86” NGO (Halyna Oleynikova), “Zelenyi front” NGO (Oleh Perehon), All-Ukrainian Environmental League (Tetiana Tymochko), Greenvideo (Valeriy Lovchynovskyi). Iaroslav Movchan analyzed true and false information provided by the companies to general public, Oleh Perehon drew attention to a number of international documents that contain profound analysis of environmental, social, legal issues related to shale gas drilling and extraction that are fully neglected by the government of Ukraine. Dmytro Skrylnikov analyzed so-called “high international standards” based on Soviet technologies of the last century used by Shell company on the drilling site of “Beliayevska-400” well in Pervomayskyi district of Kharkiv region. Olena Kravchenko gave an overview of results of surveys performed by respected committees and scientific institutions on the issue of shale gas drilling and exploitation in the USA, impact of chemicals on the environment, human health and climate. In particular, Olena mentioned that according to official studies of the Environmental Protection Agency of the USA, up to 20% – 40% of the chemicals remain underground, they are biologically undegradable and contaminate natural resources such as water and soil. According to a Congressional investigation of the Committee on Energy and Commerce on chemicals used in fracking between 2005 and 2009, the fourteen leading oil and gas companies used more than 2,500 hydraulic fracturing products. Some are seemingly harmless. But there were also 750 different chemicals and other components. Among these chemicals, 29 types of chemicals such as benzene, toluene and xylene are known carcinogens, and so the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) regulates these chemicals as hazardous for human health. In some US States drilling companies were able to store the wastewater in deep underground control wells, in Pennsylvania and in New York State companies ship their wastewater to municipal treatment plants. An investigation by the New York Times showed that those plants often lacked capacity to adequately screen or treat all drilling waste contaminants prior to the water being discharged into rivers that supply drinking water. Furthermore, the levels of radioactivity in the wastewater were sometimes significantly above normal and far higher than the level that sewage treatment plants can handle. This fracking wastewater was later released into rivers and streams used as sources of drinking water by millions of Pennsylvanians. Thus, Olena Kravchenko summarized that even experienced companies cannot speak about safe technologies.
Full text of the presentation can be found here.
At the end of the hearings representatives of the public provided the Committee with the Conclusion of environmental NGOs entitled “Environmental problems of shale gas extraction in Ukraine”. Full text of the Conclusion can be found here.
The hearings in the Committee can be called the first victory of those who care about future of Ukraine as independent country in terms of energy supplies as well as the country with the environment safe for health and life for us and our children. It was the first time that all parties had a possibility to openly express their views, ask inconvenient questions to their opponents. It was the first time that a number of unbiased experts, NGOs, independent researchers have had a chance not only to be silent audience at seminars of Shell and Chevron, which did not envisage any public participation, but to be able to speak about their positions and participate in the discussion.