BNK Polska is a subsidiary of the Canada-based energy company BNK Petroleum, Inc. The company holds six of the 110 permits granted thus far for test drilling in Poland, the country with the largest shale gas deposits in Europe. The Polish government sees shale gas as an opportunity to gain energy independence. The country is currently one of the largest customers of Gazprom, the Russian energy giant, buying 10.25 billion cubic meters of natural gas from it last year alone. Yet over the past years, organised opposition to shale gas has consolidated in Poland.
In August 2013, a tanker truck contracted by BNK Petroleum to move drilling liquids between two sites overturned in a traffic circle near Bytów, releasing 424 cubic feet of drilling mud into a river, the company reported. While there were no injuries, the fluid, used to help boreholes go deeper into the ground, contains a potentially hazardous biocide.
According to a recent report from the Trans-National Institute: Poland is also the country under the most obvious fracking-induced threat of water and land grabbing. First of all, companies do not pay for water, as it is included in the land concession, not even in areas that are exposed to water shortages, as in the South. Second, Poland’s legal framework enables companies to buy the land for gas extraction even if the actual owner does not want to sell it. Shale gas extraction has been specifically included on the official government list that allows for dispossession of farmers or real estate owners. Finally, during the year 2011, when most licenses for exploration were granted, no preliminary environmental assessment was required from the companies. Due to this, companies cannot be held accountable for the state in which they return any leased land. In January 2011, the Warsaw Appeals Prosecutor’s Office announced that seven people, including government officials, have been charged with corruption during the granting of licenses for shale gas exploration.
Some media reports from Poland show that heavy-handed tactics such as spying and undercover operations are being used there against groups and individuals who question shale gas development, and anti-fracking groups claim they are being gagged and will not be allowed to participate in the upcoming COP17 events to be held in Poland.