France National Assembly Says No to FrackingMay 11, 2011 | Parker Waichman LLP
It looks like some in Europe aren’t ready to embrace hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, with the same enthusiasm we've seen from some quarters here in the U.S. In France, the National Assembly has just approved a law that would ban the controversial oil and natural gas drilling technique. The legislation moves next to the Senate.
According to a report from France24.com, several hundred people rallied outside the French parliament building to protest fracking while the National Assembly debated the ban. That crowd included some French presidential candidates, as well as the widow of former President François Mitterrand. The fracking debate took off in France earlier this year, when it was discovered that the government had quietly given energy companies exploration permits for work in some of France’s most scenic regions. Electoral defeats prompted the party of President Nicolas Sarkozy to do an about face, and last month, it ordered a temporary freeze on shale gas exploration, France24.com said.
The fracking ban approved by the National Assembly was actually drafted by Sarkozy's conservative party. If it becomes law, shale gas drilling would still be allowed, just not via fracking.
According to a report from the Financial Times, if the ban becomes law, companies that admit to drilling via fracking would have their permits revoked. Companies such as Total, GDF-Suez and the US explorer Toreador are among those that could see their permits revoked.
Fracking involves shooting a cocktail of water, sand and chemicals into rock formations at high pressure to shake loose natural gas formations. The process is controversial because of concerns that it could pollute the water table. In the U.S. where fracking is quickly becoming widespread, the technique has been blamed for methane contamination of drinking water wells. Accidents, including blowouts at natural gas wells, have also caused contamination from fracking fluid spills.