Local Czechs rally against shale gas drilling in Bohemia
A What is shale gas?
B Is there any in your country?
C What are the problems with it?
D Vocabulary. Check the meaning of these words:
5 pressure group
7 water table
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Hundreds gathered on the main square of the northwest Bohemian town of Náchod to protest against the planned exploration and eventual extraction of shale gas deposits in the region. Although the Ministry of Environment has already issued a survey licence to an Australian-owned company, local municipalities have appealed against the decision.
“We want to support the mayors who have clearly expressed their opposition to exploration and extraction of shale gas in this region. We have also found out that the owners of the firm should be here and we want to show them their plans won’t go through in our region,” said Jiří Malík, an ecologist and representative of the anti-shale gas pressure group STOP HF.
Hutton Energy says its subsidiary, Basgas Energia Czech, “will be one of the first independent oil and gas companies to focus on unconventional [shale] gas resources” in the Czech Republic. The company says its 777 km² in the Náchod, Trutnov and Broumov districts has been identified as a “Silurian shale gas with similar characteristics to others in Poland and North America.” Based on initial exploration in Poland, the fact the site has “high organic content and silica content means it has high potential for shale gas production.”
Opponents of shale gas extraction claim it damages the environment and can contaminate water tables and thus water supplies for local residents. “Any hydraulic fracturing [fracking] in the Czech Republic will lead to the contamination of groundwater,” Malík said.
Pavel Lhotský from Basgas Energia Czech tried to reassure the meeting that exploration and extraction would not pose any threat to local water supplies. “Each bore hole will have concrete and steel shielding,” he said during the debate hosted by the regional governor.
Lhotský also claimed that in the US, where shale gas has been extracted for over 10 years, there has not been a single case of contamination of groundwater from the process. However, in April 2011 the US National Academy of Sciences published a study showing that water supplies in upstate New York and Pennsylvania have been contaminated with methane as a result of shale gas extraction.
The anticipated reserves of shale gas lie around 1.5 km under the ground, whereas the groundwater tables are at a maximum depth of 500 metres. According to Malík, “it is absolutely certain” that some materials will get into the groundwater, such as chemicals used in the extraction process and the gas itself.
The Náchod district assembly passed a motion on February 20 opposing local shale gas exploration. Some 50 local administrations in the region have signed a petition against surveying for shale gas, and submitted a formal objection to the Ministry of Environment against the permit issued to Basgas Energia Czech.
The permit for exploration includes a site near the town of Náchod, which is a key source of local drinking water. “We must not let anyone ever drill here. What’s important for us here isn’t gas but water,” assembly member Fiedler Libor said at the meeting. “Náchod is around 80 percent connected to the Polická křídová basin, and there is a great danger of contamination of the groundwater,” Náchod Mayor Jan Birke said at the same meeting. Franc is also opposed to Hutton Energy’s plans. Drilling towers “don’t belong in the shadow of the Krkonoš Mountains or above the Babiččiný Valley,” he said.
Apart from its plans in the Náchod, Trutnov and Broumov districts, Basgas Energia Czech also wants to survey a 946 km² block in the Beroun district 30 km southwest of Prague.