FRANCE’S ban on hydraulic fracturing has been upheld by the Constitutional Council after a legal challenge by Texan energy company Schuepbach.
The verdict comes as the European Commission said that future plans to exploit shale gas and oil reserves would require an environmental impact study, with French MEP Corrine Lepage saying: "For once, the general interest has won out."
All moves to drill wells to explore for shale gas in France were halted after the Sarkozy government banned development in 2011 with the law against hydraulic fracturation, the only known method for extracting the gas.
Schuepbach challenged the withdrawal of drilling rights in the Ardèche, Gard, Hérault, Lozère and Aveyron as an “abuse” of the principle of precaution over the risk of environmental damage.
However, the government told the Conseil Constitutionnel the ban was not through precaution but prevention, aimed at preventing environmental problems as hydraulic fracturing carried pollution risks to underground aquifers.
Schuepbach said the ban was not being applied equally as hydraulic fracturing was still allowed for geothermal energy projects.
Fracking is considered dangerous because it uses millions of litres of water plus a cocktail of chemicals and sand to crack open the rock to let the gas escape. It is feared the chemicals can leach into water sources – and no chemicals are used in hydraulic fracturing for geothermal energy.
Anti-shale gas protests are to be held in many French towns on October 19 as part of a worldwide anti-fracking day.
An oil industry newsletter has said Schuepbach is claiming €1billion in damages over the withdrawal of its drilling rights, claiming lost profits over the next 50 years – although no study has shown there are proven resources.
Europe’s move to require an environmental impact study for hydraulic fracturing projects comes as the European Parliament reviews legislation that was passed before the controversial technique became well established.
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