SEVEN PEOPLE, INCLUDING a number of government officials, have been charged with corruption in relation to the process of granting of licences for shale gas exploration in Poland.Waldemar Tyl of the Warsaw Appeals Prosecutor’s Office, who announced the charges, said bribes of tens of thousands of zlotys (euros) were handed over in the second half of 2011 alone.
According to the Warsaw Business Journal the charges related to a law which deals with public officials who engage in activities that lead to their own personal financial gain.
Three Environment Ministry officials, an employee of the state Geology Institute and three representatives of companies involved in shale gas exploration were arrested yesterday. They were suspected of having being involved in bribery. Other Polish media reported that one of those arrested headed the ministry in charge of granting licences.
Shale gas is a naturally occurring substance which is found deep in underground rock and can only be accessed through a controversial drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing or fracking.
The process involves pumping water and chemicals deep underground at extremely high pressures in order to break-up or fracture rock formations and allow the shale gas to escape. Billions of euro worth of the gas is thought to lie deep beneath rock formations in parts Cavan, Leitrim, Roscommon and Sligo.
While some licences have been granted for shale gas exploration, there is currently no extraction drilling taking place and the process is currently the subject of a review by the Environmental Protection Agency in Ireland.
Poland – which is trying to limit its dependence on gas and oil imports from Russia – is believed to have significant shale gas deposits and has granted more than 100 licences for shale gas exploration to international companies including Exxon Mobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Petrolinvest.