EFFECTIVE ACCESS TO INFORMATION AND PUBLIC PARTICIPATION WITH RESPECT TO SHALE GAS ISSUES: A COMPERATIVE ANALYSIS IN THE LIGHT OF THE AARHUS CONVENTION AND US EXPERIENCE.

Kristine Zaiceva
Persbericht

EFFECTIVE ACCESS TO INFORMATION AND PUBLIC PARTICIPATION WITH RESPECT TO SHALE GAS ISSUES: A COMPERATIVE ANALYSIS IN THE LIGHT OF THE AARHUS CONVENTION AND US EXPERIENCE.

Wordt de publieke opinie voldoende betrokken bij milieubeslissingen betreffende schaliegas?

Schaliegas is momenteel één van de meest populaire onderwerpen in energierecht. Met ingang van 2009 is het niveau van de productie van aardgas uit schalieformaties toegenomen in de Verenigde Staten. Het is nu één van 's werelds top schaliegasproducenten, na Rusland. Rond 2010 was schaliegas goed voor 23% van de Amerikaanse gasproductie. De productie van gas uit leisteen blijft aandacht trekken van over de hele wereld, voornamelijk uit Europa.

Schaliegas breken zorgt voor een aantal uitdagingen en het creëert tevens een aantal milieuproblemen. Een breed publiek draagvlak is belangrijk om legitieme besluitvormingen en resultaten te bekomen. Getroffen gemeenschappen moeten mogelijkheden hebben om hun bezorgdheden te uiten. In dit opzicht is één van de krachtigste oplossingen het Verdrag van Aarhus, dat in 1998 werd goedgekeurd. Zoals is vermeld in artikel 1 van het Verdrag van Aarhus: ‘Om bij te dragen aan de bescherming van het recht van elke persoon van de huidige en toekomstige generaties om te leven in een milieu dat passend is voor zijn of haar gezondheid en welzijn, waarborgt elke partij de rechten op toegang tot informatie, inspraak in de besluitvorming en toegang tot de rechter inzake milieuaangelegenheden in overeenstemming.’ Dus, officieel heeft het publiek een mogelijkheid om te participeren in de milieuproblematiek, maar de belangrijkste vraag is: Hoe effectief is dit instrument?

Eerst moeten we nadenken over de toegang tot informatie. Om schaliegas te verkrijgen moet een mengsel van water en een korrelige substantie zoals zand en speciale chemicaliën, onder hoge druk worden in de grond worden gepompt. Het probleem is dat bedrijven vaak het gebruik van dergelijke chemicaliën geheim houden. Wat is er belangrijker, het milieu of hun bedrijfsgeheimen? De rechter moet verschillende belangen tegen elkaar afwegen om een oordeel te vellen dat het beste is voor het algemeen belang. Vrijwillige websites werden opgezet om informatie over deze chemicaliën mee te delen, maar is dit genoeg? Het is duidelijk dat er strengere regels nodig zijn voor het gebruik- en openbaarmaken van chemicaliën gebruikt bij het ontginnen van schaliegas.

Een andere belangrijke vraag is hoe vaak de omgeving betrokken is bij de besluitvorming. De inspraak is belangrijk om een optimaal resultaat te bereiken. De betrokkenheid kan gebeuren op verschillende manieren: besluitvorming, administratieve situatie, participatie of raadpleging. Dit is cruciaal voor vragen omtrent schaliegas, omdat het een impact kan hebben op het leven van de mensen en het milieu. Het grootste probleem ligt bij een milieu-effectenrapport, waar de mensen bij worden betrokken. Bijna altijd zal schaliegas aan een milieueffectenbeoordeling kunnen ontsnappen, en dan is het de overheid die een beslissing zal nemen. Er was een voorstel van het Europees Parlement om milieuaangelegenheden verplicht te stellen voor alle schaliegas projecten, maar dat werd verworpen. Uit onderzoek blijkt dat Europese landen zoals Polen bereid zijn de publieke betrokkenheid te verminderen in vergelijking met de Amerika.

Een ander probleem is dat de mening van de publieke opinie niet in rekening wordt genomen. Bijvoorbeeld, in 2014 maakte het Verenigd Koninkrijk een consultatie over rechten met betrekking tot schaliegas, maar daarna maakte het een volledig tegengestelde beslissing, afgaande aan de resultaten. Dit en andere voorbeelden tonen aan dat de publieke opinie niet belangrijk is. Zoals Buxton schrijft: “De openbare betrokkenheid blijft één van de belangrijkste problemen in minerale sector”.

Toegang tot informatie en inspraak kan alleen worden beschouwd als een compleet instrument als het effectief is. Vaak wordt de effectiviteit van het probleem in kwestie gereduceerd tot de obstakels, waardoor het onmogelijk wordt om deze volledig en uitdrukkelijk uit te oefenen. Deze belemmeringen bevatten: vrijstellingen tot het blootgeven van bedrijfsgeheimen, problemen van transparantie en geen rekening houden met de publieke opinie. Voor meer informatie lees: EFFECTIVE ACCESS TO INFORMATION AND PUBLIC PARTICIPATION WITH RESPECT TO SHALE GAS ISSUES: A COMPERATIVE ANALYSIS IN THE LIGHT OF THE AARHUS CONVENTION AND US EXPERIENCE.

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