France Becomes First Country To Ban Fracking; Gas Drilling Still A Go

In a major setback for the oil and gas industry, the French Senate last week voted 176 to 151 to ban hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a. fracking), the controversial gas industry drilling method facing scrutiny the world over due to water contamination and other concerns. Once the legislation receives presidential approval, France will be the first country to permanently outlaw fracking.

The ban on fracking is a major victory for the French public, wary of the health, safety and water contamination impacts that unconventional gas drilling would have on communities. Still, with up to five billion cubic metres of unconventional gas spread across southern France, the drilling drama is likely far from settled.
The majority of the Senators voting in favour of the ban on Thursday come from President Nicholas Sarkozy’s ruling UMP party. On the other side, many of the Senators voting against the law, which passed a similar lower house vote in May, decry it for not going far enough.

The legislation to ban fracking was originally intended to cover all forms of unconventional gas drilling, but that effort was seen by many UMP parliamentarians as too restrictive.

The French ban means that companies granted drilling permits last March will have two months to prove that they are not using fracking techniques. U.S. gas company Scheupbach Energy received two licenses and France’s Total was given the other. Their permits will be revoked if they wish to frack, and they could face fines and prison sentences for any fracking attempts.

Opponents of the law continue to voice concerns that only a blanket ban on all forms of unconventional drilling will truly protect public health, water supplies and the environment. These parliamentarians claim that gas companies could theoretically continue to frack wells due to provisions allowing for ‘drilling for scientific research purposes.’ Ecologist senator Jean Desessard, like many opposition politicians, also feels that the fracking-specific ban means that those eager to drill will change the name of their gas extraction technique, or use another drilling method which might prove equally if not more damaging.

This is a real concern since the text of the law does not properly define fracking. Although a challenge has already been prepared, for now, opposition parliamentarians will not appeal to the Constitutional Court for a ruling on the matter.

From the gas industry’s perspective, the law is a major setback. The Union Francaise des Industries Petrolieres, which represents Total and other oil and gas interests, suggests that “the law will prevent an evaluation of shale hydrocarbon resources and their impact on the French economy.” There is also some concern that drillers could challenge the law in court. Last month, French Environment Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet said that a challenge of some sort was likely. However, during the Senate debate, she said “financial and legal risks have been limited.”

The fracking ban legislation now heads to President Sarkozy’s desk for signing.


Nice going France – you just banned something for which there isn’t a single documented case of water contamination.

Have fun mortgaging what’s left of your future to Gazprom and Libya. It’s for *the children* … LOL!

Oh, thank goodness France has solved all of their real problems – and now they can focus on passing laws against the imaginary ones.

Well not everyone agrees with your assessment of fracking’s safety.
Your philosophy seems to be pollute contaminate and poison at will, and ask questions later. You might be right, but I would prefer that we ask questions first.

Pennslyvania has a total of 4.5 million acres of public lands. Estimates show that as few as 500,000 of these are permanently protected from gas drilling

Fracking with our food: how gas drilling affects farming

Former Bush EPA Official Confirms 2004 EPA Fracking Study Was Misused

A study on the impact of fracking in Pennsylvania and New York shows water within1 kilometer of gas wells has methane levels over 17 times normal .
For the first time, a scientific study has linked natural gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing with a pattern of drinking water contamination so severe that some faucets can be lit on fire.
The peer-reviewed study, published on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,

“Our results show evidence for methane contamination of shallow drinking water systems in at least three areas of the region and suggest important environmental risks accompanying shale gas exploration worldwide,” the article states.

European Fracking Lobby Group Caught Peddling Bogus Report b

Gas Industry Admits Water Contamination in Pennsylvania, Drillers Told To Stop Fracking Wastewater Delivery To public water treatment facilities (POTWs).

NY Times Story On Gas Fracking Reveals Radioactive Wastewater Threat
DRILLING DOWN: Regulation Lax as Gas Wells’ Tainted Water Hits Rivers

EPA Results Show Contaminated Water in Wyoming Fracking Zone

What?! Links to desmogblog?

That’s all the evidence we need!

LOL, what a putz.

It’s a nice and commendable initiative by France. Other EU countries shall also take the cue.

Eugene Thompson

I wish you guys could see the smile on my face when I read this article. I am overwhelmed by the achievement of the French people. I always regarded the French as being pretentious, but this has certainly changed my mind! Great stuff my French counterparts! Keep it up!


YOu forget… France does not need the gas that badly.
They have neuclear power to spare.

They can afford to be silly.

Two reasons this doesnt matter.

1 - there is no shortage of gas now or even in the long term

2 - When an actual shortage happens, governments will rip up these bans in a heartbeat. That is how it works.

edit … this was covered in the last comment - just noticed

anyway the point is made again lol

As I noted on Cleantechies (cf., finding more oil and gas is only pursuing the headlong rush, and postponing the inevitable.

We need to get out of oil, gas and coal, not finding more sources.

Fossil fuels are already massively polluting, finding new ways to extract them will be even more polluting.

It is high time we work on energy efficiency and low carbon energy sources…

not going to happen.

Most of the 7 Billion people on Earth are just trying to lift themselves out of poverty. Fossil Fuel is the only way anyone knows to even start doing that.

Rich people can work on efficiency. Good for them. But the poor people arent going to be able to tighten their belts and there are more of them. Lots more. Not everybody lives in a big city condo like you and I.

I think its going to be worse than you imagine. Shale gas will become so commonplace and so cheap that well look back at the fossil fuel indiustry over the past 100 years and realize that up to now the industry has just been in its infancy. Cheers.

‘Fossil fuels are already massively polluting, finding new ways to extract them will be even more polluting.’

One only has to read, and I recommend those that have not do so ASAP, Jeff Goodell’s ‘Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind America’s Energy Future’ to appreciate the calumnies perpetrated in the name of fossil fuel and not only in the extraction process but the conversion into useful energy e.g. electricity.

It is no surprise that Big Coal has used similar tactics of denial about the true hazards of pollution, especially mercury for which there is no calculable minimum safe exposure to, that are so familiar and brought out by Naomi Oreskes in her excellent ‘Merchants of Doubt’ and with different angles coming out of Jim Hoggan’s equally informative ‘Climate Cover-Up’.

Do people really want to live, no that is too optimistic a word, exist, in a land reminiscent of Mordor?

“with up to five billion cubic metres of unconventional gas spread across southern France, the drilling drama is likely far from settled.”

So the method they use to extract the gas won’t be fracking so what, they will simply use another method. The gas is still coming out of the ground, that’s all there is to it. It will simply cost a fraction of a a penny more per cubic meter. Wow big industry set back, they might never recover. Cheers