Majority of MEPs support fracking moratorium in symbolic vote

MEPs in Strasbourg vote 338 to 319 in favour of moratorium on hydraulic fracturing for shale until is proven safe – but vote will have no practical effect

A majority of MEPs supported a moratorium on fracking for shale gas for the first time on Wednesday, in a symbolic vote that may nonetheless signal uncertainty ahead for the European Commission and industry.

The report containing the amendment vote was not adopted and the result will have no practical effect. But anti-shale parliamentarians say that they have put the issue back on the agenda and now plan to push for a more consequential vote on the issue.

“We have sent a clear political message to the Commission and shown that there is a majority in parliament for further steps and actions, which may now be expected,” the Green MEP, Benedek Javor, told the Guardian.

A new fracking ban text could now be introduced in another text which, if passed, would trigger formal debates at the European Commission and among heads of state, he said.

Javor was a co-sponsor of the amendment, along with the Socialist MEP, Miroslav Poche. Its outcome may cause queasiness in Brussels. Last year, the Commission largely opted out of shale gas regulation after UK lobbying, while the vaunted “shale gas revolution” in Europe is currently viewed as a “dud” by analysts.

Shale companies are expected to get a fresh €15m handout from the EU for environmental impact studies, according to documents seen by the Guardian. While that money is unlikely to affect shale prospects in Europe, regulatory uncertainty might.

Today’s amendment, which was passed by 338 votes to 319, called for a halt to the authorisation of new shale explorations and drills “until this is proven safe for the environment citizens and workers”.

Its umbrella report is thought to have fallen because Greens and far left groups joined pro-fracking conservatives in voting it down, due to another inserted amendment supporting public funds for nuclear energy.

Theresa Griffin MEP, Labour’s European spokeswoman on energy, said: “It is hugely disappointing that the Tories have, once again, aligned with Ukip to vote down a very important report on energy security, which included support for renewable energy and energy efficiency.

“Labour MEPs want to make sure the UK’s energy security is reinforced by reducing our dependency on fossil fuel imports and developing renewable technologies. We are pro-business and pro-environment and know it is crucial to boost investment in renewable energy across Europe.

Even so, Geert de Cock, the director of the environmental group Food and Water Europe, said that it showed that Europe’s political winds were turning. “We consider this vote a milestone for the European anti-fracking movement and a clear indicator that the public acceptance for this industry is crumbling across the EU,” he said.

UKOOG, the representative body for the UK onshore oil and gas industry, said: “We are confident that our industry has already been proven to be safe and, therefore, fail to see any justification for a moratorium.”

In another confusing week for MEP’s at Strasbourg, a key vote on the TTIP trade talks planned for today was cancelled, ostensibly due to a huge number of amendments that had been added to the resolution.

The Plaid Cymru MEP Jill Evans claimed that the delay was merely intended to fend off internal divisions among centre-right political groups which were coming under public pressure.