MPs vote for shale gas fracking ban

Controversial drilling technique of hydraulic fracturing halted – but door remains open for experiments

11 May 2011

MPs have voted to ban the shale gas mining process of hydraulic fracturing in France.

The proposition was passed by 287 votes to 186, with the Socialist Party and green MPs voting against it because it did not constitute an outright ban of shale gas mining in France.

The latest proposition bans the technique of hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, which uses a high-pressure blast of water, sand and chemicals to create a shockwave to break open cracks deep in the earth and shift the gas into collection areas.

Fracking, currently the only technique used to collect shale gas, has come into the spotlight for causing damage to drinking water supplies.

Thousands of protesters have marched against shale gas exploration, voicing fears of the damage that, beyond the danger to the water table, the transport of materials and drilling could cause to local communities.

All firms who currently hold shale gas exploration permits in France will need to produce a report ensuring that their mining technique is not fracking.

If hydraulic fracturing is used, or no report is produced, the drilling permits will be rescinded. The list of companies and their techniques will be made public.

The proposition leaves the door open for drilling experiments used to hone other methods of obtaining shale gas, held under public supervision.

Senators will debate the proposal on June 1.

Ecology Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, has told interviewers that the original granting of shale gas exploration permits by her predessor Jean-Louis Borloo was "a mistake."

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