The European Union is preparing to introduce tighter rules on fracking operations, despite efforts from the UK to loosen regulation, reports have revealed.

The European Commission has been preparing for these steps for quite some time now. Last month, the European Parliament supported an amendment to the EU's Environmental Impact Assessment Directive, which states that all operations for hydraulic fracturing for coal bed methane and for shale and shale-like formations should go through environmental impact assessments. This means that if the amended EIA Directive comes into force, all private and public shale gas exploration projects involving hydraulic fracturing in the EU will have to present an EIA before obtaining a permit.

In the new proposed regulation, the EC is likely to insist on stringent rules on methane emissions from fracking and on prevention of water pollution. EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik said he hoped the proposals would be presented by the end of this year or in early 2014.

The initiative to tighten fracking operations control is based on the opinion shared by many member-states that hydraulic fracturing has far-reaching effects on the environment. The EU members are far from a universal position on fracking, however. While France recently upheld its ban on all fracking activities, the UK and Poland have been calling for legislative support for the industry and less stringent regulation.