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Mayors threaten election boycott


MAYORS in the Var are threatening to boycott the presidential election vote in protest at plans to prospect for shale gas in the region.

Pierre Jugy, the mayor of Tourtour in the Haut Var, says their questions to politicians on what is planned and how it will affect their communes have not been answered.

Shale gas is controversial because the only known method to extract it from the tight rock formations where it is found involves hydraulic fracturing or “fracking”, which has been blamed for water pollution in the US and, in the UK, minor earthquakes.

Mr Jugy said: “Look, it’s simple. I called the presidential candidates to ask exactly what they intend re shale gas in the Var and we’re still waiting for answers. I just want to know if we’re going to have clean water or not?”

He and other mayors want more information on a bid by Texan company Schuepbach Energy to explore for shale gas in a zone covering three-quarters of the Var and part of the Alpes-Maritimes.

“If they don’t reply we will decide what action to take but in this village, if we don't have water I’ll close the mairie and the Préfecture can organise the election,” Mr Jugy said. “I hope I'm being very clear? We need to know we'll have water.”

Although France halted shale gas prospecting and banned fracking last year, the mayors want this demand refused for once and for all.

The Var mayors are not alone. Anti-fracking groups all across France are fighting demands for prospecting permits, many of which are currently being reconsidered.

The government rejected three bids for exploration licences last October but another 61 are still in place across the country – and are now being looked at again.

In Lot-et-Garonne, council leaders have formed a committee to investigate the risks from shale gas exploration after a new bid to prospect at Beaumont de Lomagne in an area of 10,405km2.

It is the largest application in France and covers Lot-et-Garonne, Lot, Dordogne, Tarn-et-Garonne, Haute-Garonne, Ariège and Gers.

In Toulouse, Marie-Florence Marchand of protest group Non Au Gaz de Schiste said “permit demands which were blocked are now back on the table, including the largest one in France”.

She said protest demonstrations were planned against the project, with a nationwide protest on May 13.

Fracking controversy
FRACKING, or hydraulic fracturing, is a method of extracting natural methane gas trapped in shale rock underground. It is thought there are vast reserves of this shale gas under much of France – and in the US it has helped cut energy prices.

Wells are drilled and the rock cracked open using high-pressure water loaded with sand and other chemicals to allow gas out. However, the water becomes contaminated and even radioactive and only half is recovered while the other half leaches away underground.

Opponents say water sources are contaminated and there is a risk of minor earthquakes, as at Blackpool.

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