11 october 2013

France Upholds Ban on Hydraulic Fracturing

By DAVID JOLLY, The New York Times, October 11, 2013

PARIS — France’s highest court on Friday upheld a government ban on a controversial drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, in a defeat for a method that has revolutionized the oil and natural gas industry in the United States.

The Constitutional Council ruled against a challenge by Schuepbach Energy, an American company, whose exploration permits were revoked after the French Parliament banned the practice.

The method, known informally as fracking, pumps water, sand and chemicals under high pressure into shale formations deep underground to liberate trapped oil and natural gas deposits. The success of the technique over the last decade has led the United States to now claim to be 87 percent self-sufficient in gas.

Environmental concerns, particularly worries about the danger to water supplies, have slowed adoption of the practice in Europe, and the center-right government of former President Nicolas Sarkozy passed a law prohibiting it in 2011.

Schuepbach Energy had claimed that the law violated its rights, unfairly singled out fracking and was unconstitutional. The court rejected those arguments.

The ruling was a victory for President François Hollande, who has tread a careful path on fracking, partly because he wants to maintain the support of the Greens party going into elections next year.

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