France upholds fracking ban

Oct 11, 2013
Members of the European Parliament Green group protest in Strasbourg, eastern France, on November 21, 2012 against fracking

France's Constitutional Council on Friday upheld a law banning fracking, the controversial process used to extract shale oil and gas from the ground.

The use of the technology known as was banned in France in 2011 because of environmental concerns and the legislation led to two research permits that had been granted to a Texan company being withdrawn.

The company, Schuepbach, challenged the legislation on the grounds that the withdrawal of the permits represented an excessively rigid interpretation of the legislation. But the Constitutional Council rejected their arguments, ruling that the law provided for a blanket ban and should be applied to even limited exploratory drilling.

"This decision means the ban on hydraulic fracturing is comprehensive and absolute," Ecology and Energy Minister Philippe Martin said, hailing the decision as a "legal, ecological and political victory."

Fracking involves the high-pressure injection of water, sand and chemicals into rock layers deep below the earth's surface in order to release hydrocarbons.

The technique is already widely used in the United States where it has generated a boom in cheap and has been credited with transforming the competitive position of US industry, helping to keep huge numbers of jobs from disappearing to lower-cost countries.

Some European countries like Britain are seeking to follow the US lead, but projects have run into fierce resistance from environmentalists, who fear fracking can lead to seismic instability and the contamination of water sources. The pro-fracking lobby insist such claims lack any supporting evidence.

France's Socialist government, which came to power a year after the fracking ban was introduced, has resisted pressure to repeal it, despite mounting concern over high energy prices and unemployment, both of which could potentially be eased through investment in shale projects.

British Prime Minister David Cameron warned in August that Europe was in danger of "missing out big time" on the shale revolution.

The way North American shale production is transforming the global energy market was underlined on Friday by figures from the International Energy Agency, which forecast that the United States would become the biggest oil producer outside the Organisation of Petroleum Countries (OPEC) grouping by the second quarter of next year.

Schuepbach had also argued that the on shale drilling was discriminatory since fracking remains authorised in France for geothermal energy projects. The council rejected that argument, saying it involved a different form of fracking and did not present the same environmental risks.

Explore further: EPA chief: Climate plan on track despite mercury ruling

Related Stories

Brussels says no plans for EU-wide shale gas ban

Jul 16, 2013

The European Union has no plans to impose a blanket ban on hydraulic fracturing, a controversial shale gas extraction method, but it will lay out rules to address environmental concerns, a top EU official ...

UK 'likely' to have 102 trln cubic feet of shale gas

Jun 03, 2013

British exploration company IGas Energy on Monday said it believed it was sitting on a far bigger amount of shale gas than thought, ahead of controversial drilling work to begin this year in northwest England.

Recommended for you

EPA chief: Climate plan on track despite mercury ruling

6 hours ago

A Supreme Court ruling that undermined a federal rule targeting mercury pollution will not affect the Obama administration's plan to limit greenhouse gas emissions to slow the effects of global warming, the head of the Environmental ...

Rubber expansion threatens biodiversity and livelihoods

15 hours ago

Increasing amounts of environmentally valuable and protected land are being cleared for rubber plantations that are economically unsustainable, new research suggests. More widespread monitoring is vital to ...

Timber and construction, a well-matched couple

15 hours ago

The IT 781-13 group (UPV/EHU) has for the last ten years been conducting research into building structures and materials (concrete, steel and timber). According to its latest research, timber is a very light, tough material ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

5 / 5 (2) Oct 15, 2013

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.