France’s Fracking Ban ‘absolute’ After Court Upholds Law

France’s highest legal body upholds ban on fracking

Photographer: Bartek Sadowski/Bloomberg Frances constitutional court upheld a ban on hydraulic fracturing, ruling that the law against the energy-exploration technique known as fracking is a valid means of protecting the environment. The 2011 law conforms to the constitution and is not disproportionate, the court in Paris said in a decision posted on its website today. Schuepbach Energy LLC, a Dallas-based explorer, complained to the court that the law was unfair after having two exploration permits revoked because of the ban. President Francois Hollande has said France wont allow exploration of shale energy even as the country seeks to reduce its reliance on nuclear energy and keep down costs for consumers. Its a judicial victory but also an environmental and political victory, French Environment Minister Philippe Martin said today after the ruling. With this decision the ban on hydraulic fracturing is absolute. The technique, which involves blasting a mixture of water, sand and chemicals underground to release oil and gas from shale rock, has raised the ire of environmental groups who fear groundwater contamination. Schuepbach argued in court last month that there isnt a study that establishes risks from fracking. The explorer also said the ban was unfair because the drilling technique may still be used in French geothermal-energy projects. Deplorable Ruling The court today ruled that in imposing the ban, lawmakers were pursuing a legitimate goal in the general interest of protecting the environment and noted differences between geothermal and shale gas exploration techniques. The court also rejected an argument that the ban went against property rights. France is depriving itself of exploration that could evaluate potentially large nonconventional carbon resources, the GEP-AFTP oil and gas lobby said in a statement, adding that it deplores the court decision. France should create a commission to experiment with shale drilling in order to evaluate the size of reserves, the lobby said.

France’s Hollande assures Netanyahu that Paris will maintain pressure on Iran

US firm Schuepbach Energy challenged the ban after its exploration permits were cancelled. News Wires (text) Frances constitutional council rejected on Friday a challenge to a law banning hydraulic fracturing for exploration and production of the countrys shale gas and oil. The ruling is a boost for President Francois Hollande, who has opposed the technology alongside ecologist Greens in his ruling coalition – to the dismay of some allies who believe France is sacrificing access to a cheap source of energy. U.S-based firm Schuepbach Energy had challenged on four counts a ban introduced in 2011 due to potential risks to the environment, which led to two of its exploration permits being cancelled in southern France. The constitutional council threw out these four complaints and ruled that the disputed components of the July 13, 2011 law comply with the constitution, the court said in a statement. The Constitutional Council, made up of judges and former French presidents, has the power to annul laws if they are deemed to be unconstitutional. The International Energy Agency has named France as a European country with some of the most plentiful underground reserves of shale gas. However fracking was banned in France under former President Nicolas Sarkozy on concerns it could pollute groundwater and trigger earthquakes, bringing to a halt the nascent shale oil and gas industry in France. After France put the ban in place, Schuepbach Energy said it had no alternative way to carry out the exploration, which led to the suspension of its two permits in the south of France. French oil major Total is still awaiting a ruling after it separately appealed at the end of 2011 the governments decision to ban its own exploration permit by the southeastern town of Montelimar. Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg stirred debate earlier this year when he suggested creating a state-backed company to examine alternative exploration techniques. (REUTERS)

France’s Ban on Fracking Upheld by Court as Constitutional

FRENCH PRESIDENT Francois Hollande and PM Photo: Courtesy Government Press Office French President Francois Hollande assured Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Friday that Paris would remain “tough” on Iran despite the Islamic Republic’s efforts to get sanctions eased against its controversial nuclear program, AFP reported. Hollande telephoned Netanyahu to give him assurances that France was committed to keeping up pressure on Iran following a media blitz by the prime minister on Thursday in which he warned against succumbing to Iran’s charm offensive in a number of interviews to European news outlets. Related: Iranian dissidents say Tehran moving nuclear research site According to AFP, Hollande told Netanyahu that France would maintain pressure on Iran until Iranian President Hassan Rouhani backed up his diplomatic overtures with actions on the ground. Netanyahu’s interviews on Thursday to media outlets in France, Britain and Germany came ahead of talks between Tehran and the P5+1 group of world powers scheduled to take place next week in Geneva. The P5+1 consists of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – the US, Russia, China, Britain and France – as well as Germany. One government official said that Netanyahu felt the need to speak to the European media, and not just European leaders, because the European public has also been the target of Rouhanis charm offensive. Netanyahu said of Rouhanis current diplomatic efforts: This regime is smiling, and coming and saying, you know what, let me keep enrichment. Ill make some tactical cosmetic concessions, you reduce the sanctions. But Netanyahu warned that if the sanctions are relieved, the whole sanctions regime will collapse. So theyll get everything, and we the collective we will get nothing. If it falls on me to say something that everybody understands, Ill say it. And dont say I didnt warn you. Netanyahu said he expects Europe to do the right thing and not fall into an Iranian trap. His message to the European journalists was similar to his message to US media outlets last week . Herb Keinon contributed to this report.