WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland wants its new shale gas law to go into force next year, Piotr Wozniak, the deputy environment minister responsible for the draft law said on Wednesday, but added that it would be best if a shale gas tax waited until at least 2016.
Poland, which aims to be Europe's shale gas pioneer, has postponed publication of its legal framework for the development of the potentially lucrative energy resource several times in the past few months.
Discussions over a shale gas tax were causing the delays, Wozniak told state-owned press agency PAP in an interview.
The new law is being prepared together by the Environment Ministry and the Finance Ministry.
"The bill can be applicable as of 2013. If we publish the draft this or next month, oil and gas companies will have a chance to prepare their business plans for next year based on transparent rules," Wozniak said.
"Our tax regime must be competitive with Danish, Dutch, Norwegian, German, French or Italian tax rates ...That is why we want new taxation on extraction to start being applicable no sooner than at the beginning of 2016."
Wozniak added that accelerating exploration is a key goal for Poland as this could hasten commercial production of shale gas, helping reduce Poland's dependence on gas imports from Russia's Gazprom.
Poland's eastern neighbor supplies a quarter of the gas used by the European Union.
Poland granted 111 shale exploration licenses to ExxonMobil, Chevron and other firms, even as other countries, including France and Bulgaria, halted shale exploration pending further environmental studies.
Poland, a member of the European Union, had high hopes for shale after a study by the U.S. Energy Information Association in 2011 estimated Polish reserves at 5.3 trillion cubic meters, enough to cover domestic demand for some 300 years.
But estimated reserves were slashed to about a tenth of that in a government report published in March.
ExxonMobil in June decided to drop its Polish exploration projects.
(Reporting by Maciej Onoszko; editing by Jason Neely)