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UK's Cameron to EU: Don't stifle fracking with new laws

Tuesday, 17 Dec 2013 | 8:11 AM ET

LONDON, Dec 17 (Reuters) - British Prime Minister David Cameron has warned the European Commission not to propose European Union-wide legislation to regulate the nascent fracking industry, saying such a move could create uncertainty and stifle investment.

The rising cost of energy bills is a big issue ahead of a 2015 election and Cameron is keen to tap Britain's large resources of shale gas to shore up the country's energy security as its North Sea oil reserves decline.

In January, the European Commission, the EU executive, is due to publish a package of proposals related to its 2030 environment and energy strategy. These are expected to cover shale gas, but it is not yet clear if they will be non-binding guidance or firm legislative proposals.

In a letter to European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso released on Tuesday Cameron warned that the EU could derail investment in British shale gas extraction, or fracking as the process is known, if it chose to legislate.

"I am not in favour of new legislation where the lengthy timeframes and significant uncertainty involved are major causes for concern," Cameron wrote in the letter dated Dec. 4. "The industry in the UK has told us that new EU legislation would immediately delay imminent investment."

The Commission said it had received the letter, but declined to comment.

Cameron's demarche fit into his broader strategy for reform of the European Union. He has been pushing for a reduction in red tape, arguing that EU regulations are stifling economic growth and costing the continent billions of euros.