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17th Oct 2021

Lead energy MEP silent on gas meetings before vote

  • Gas companies and trade associations have spent around €300m lobbying the EU since 2010 (Photo: European Parliament)
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Corruption watchdogs have slammed the MEP leading the parliament's energy committee's work on a controversial revision of EU rules for funding major energy projects - for refusing to disclose his meetings with gas lobbyists, ahead of a crucial vote next week.

Earlier this year, Polish MEP Zdzisław Krasnodębski (European Conservatives and Reformists) was appointed to draft a report on the revision of the Trans-European Networks for Energy regulation, or TEN-E.

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The TEN-E regulation determines which cross-border energy infrastructure projects in the EU are eligible for public funds - under the so-called Projects of Common Interest (PCI).

As part of its overall climate agenda, the European Commission proposed last year to exclude all dedicated support for oil and gas infrastructure under the TEN-E regulation - in a bid to align a key piece of energy policy with its Green Deal's objectives.

But a new investigation by Global Witness and Corporate Europe Observatory on Thursday (23 September) found that Krasnodębski is now pushing the European Parliament to allow gas infrastructure projects to continue receiving EU money - while simultaneously refusing to disclose his meets with gas lobbyists.

The energy committee is expected to vote Krasnodębski's report on Monday. If approved, it will be then voted in the plenary - setting out the position of the European Parliament for the negotiations with the EU Commission and the Council.

Energy ministers said in June that all fossil-fuel support should be scrapped from the new rules, except for two key pipelines - namely the EastMed pipeline, designed to link Israel and Cyprus to Greece, and the Melita pipeline, connecting Libya to Malta and Italy.

Krasnodębski report, meanwhile, proposes to continue supporting all gas projects under the 4th and 5th PCI list. They, however, would be excluded from receiving funding under the Connecting Europe Facility.

This compromise has been supported by all the main groups in the EU Parliament - the EPP, S&D, and Renew.

There are 32 gas projects under the 4th list. The 5th list, which is not yet approved, includes 74 gas projects.

"Less than two years after this European Parliament declared a climate emergency, it beggars belief that MEPs are about to vote in favour of spending even more EU money on expanding the fossil gas network," Barnaby Pace from Global Witness told EUobserver.

"MEPs have a clear responsibility to reject the climate-wrecking agenda that Krasnodębski is offering them next week and send a clear signal that the EU must stop supporting fossil gas," he added.

Lack of transparency

Krasnodębski has refused to disclose his meetings with gas lobbyists on the TEN-E revision, as has MEP Paolo Borchia from Italy's League party.

By contrast, all other MEPs working on this file have disclosed their meetings already.

When contacted by EUobserver, Krasnodębski's office said that the mandatory deadline to reveal such contacts is "the date of the relevant vote in committee or in plenary".

Yet, the disclosure of Krasnodębski's contacts with lobbyists on the TEN-E file prior to March revealed different meetings with dozens of gas companies and trade associations.

These include the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers (whose members include Shell, Exxon, and Saudi Aramco), Polish PGNiG, and the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Gas (whose members include Italy's Snam, Poland's Gaz-System, and Belgium's Fluxys).

A separate analysis by Global Witness in June found that gas companies and trade associations have spent around €300m lobbying the EU since 2010. In total, 50 gas representatives have an access badge to the EU Parliament.

Over 200 organisations are calling to exclude the fossil fuel industry from lobbying the EU on climate and energy policy - like the tobacco industry is banned from lobbying health policies.

"Fossil fuel lobbyists keep sabotaging effective climate action to preserve their business model," said Belen Balanya from Corporate Europe Observatory.

Opinion

Hypocrisy of S&D and Left MEPs on fossil-fuel gas pipelines

The majority of members of the European Parliament's energy committee, including the Socialists and the Left, look set to green-light measures proposed by conservative parties which would lock the EU into fossil gas for years to come.

EU ambassadors divided over prolonging gas funding

EU ambassadors have failed to reach an agreement over whether cross-border natural gas projects should continue to receive EU funding, under the TEN-E regulation, which is currently under revision.

Portugal under fire for backtracking on gas funding

A group of member states is seeking to prolong EU funding for cross-border natural gas projects - contrary to the European Commission's plans to remove all support for such infrastructure, according to a draft document seen by EUobserver.

MEPs vote to support gas in cross-border projects rules

MEP in the energy committee reached a common position over the revision of the controversial TEN-E regulation, which governs funding for energy infrastructure - paving the way for negotiations with member states to agree on a final law.

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