Poland: Seven charged with corruption over shale gas exploitation

Polish prosecutors charged four government officials and three gas company representatives with corruption Monday, according to GlobalPost. A Warsaw prosecution spokesman announced that three of the officials were from the environmental ministry and the fourth was from the Polish Geological Institute. The firms involved were not specified.

The accused face 11 charges of active and passive corruption involving bribery. The bribes reportedly ranged from USD $4,000 -$17,000 and the accused may face up to eight years in prison if found guilty.

The government officials are charged with accepting bribes to compose tender bids for prospecting and exploitation licenses.

Poland is planning to invest €12.5 billion (US$16.6 billion) in shale gas by 2020. The country wants to reduce dependence on imported Russian gas, which makes up 60 percent of the natural gas used in Poland.

Poland is estimated to have up to 67.8 trillion cubic feet of shale gas deposits according to the Polish Geological Institute. Shale gas also provides the benefit of reduced greenhouse emissions.

However, Poland has been accused of excessive regulation in recent years, the Economist reported. Gas companies ExxonMobil, Talisman, and Marathon Oil have abandoned shale gas in Poland. The industry's main lobby group, the Polish Exploration and Production Industry Organization (OPPPW) has complained of "excessive controls and rights" and limits on exploration licenses.