French Senate agrees shale drilling ban in definitive vote
London (Platts)--1Jul2011/624 am EDT/1024 GMT
France's upper house, the Senate, passed late Thursday a law banning
exploration for shale oil and gas.
The draft law bans all unconventional exploration of hydrocarbons using
hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, techniques, and is now set to become law
following presidential signoff.
Some 176 senators voted for the law, submitted by the ruling UMP party,
with 151 voting against. Left-wing parties opposed the bill.
The government gave the bill an accelerated status, meaning the bill was
read just once by the upper and lower house. Due to changes made between the
two houses in the first reading, a mixed commission drew up an amended text,
which was agreed by the lower house last week.
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France had issued three permits for shale gas exploration--two to US
firm Scheupbach Energy and the other to France's Total, as well as three for
The draft law was a response to rising public and political opposition
to shale drilling. It stipulates that the current holders of permits have two
months to declare which method of drilling they would use and their permits
would be repealed if they indicated the fracking technique.
Left-wing and Green party members have objected to an article in the law
which retains the possibility of research into shale drilling for scientific
Opponents say this gives exploration companies a window of opportunity
to continue drilling, and have called for a blanket repeal of all shale
The bill requires the government to submit to parliament an annual
report outlining the possible drilling techniques for research drilling, for
which a commission would give its verdict.
The Socialist party has voiced its concern over the lack of definition
of hydraulic fracturing in the law text, although a move to appeal to the
Constitutional Court over the matter was abandoned Thursday.
The definitive vote by the Senate means the government has managed to
negotiate the bill through Parliament before the summer recess.
Parliamentarians' thoughts will no doubt turn towards presidential elections,
set for the spring of 2012, when they return in the autumn.
--Robin Sayles, email@example.com