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French court upholds ban on hydraulic fracturing

By Bob Downing Published: October 14, 2013

From Bloomberg News on Friday:

By Tara Patel & Gregory Viscusi

 

France’s 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 won’t allow exploration of shale energy even as the country seeks to reduce its reliance on nuclear energy and keep down costs for consumers.

“It’s 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 isn’t 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 and Poland have the greatest potential for recoverable shale gas in Europe, the International Energy Agency has said. In the U.S., where fracking is widely used, oil output is poised to surpass Saudi Arabia’s by 2020, making the country almost self-reliant, according to the IEA.

France banned fracking and canceled exploration licenses held by companies including Schuepbach and Total SA (FP), the country’s biggest oil company, after protests by environmental groups. The ban has proved divisive, pitting Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg, who backs drilling as a way to create jobs, against Martin as well as Delphine Batho, whose job Martin took.

The ban can no longer be attacked in court and will benefit the fight against carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels, he said.

“Beyond the question of fracking, shale gas is a carbon emitter,” he said. “We must set our priorities on renewable energies.”

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Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management State agency Web site.

ODNR Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management. State drilling permits. List is updated weekly.

ODNR Division of Geological Survey.

Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

Ohio State University Extension.

Ohio Farm Bureau.

Ohio Oil and Gas Association, a Granville-based group that represents 1,500 Ohio energy-related companies.

Ohio Oil & Gas Energy Education Program.

Energy In Depth, a trade group.

Marcellus and Utica Shale Resource Center by Ohio law firm Bricker & Eckler.

Utica Shale, a compilation of Utica shale activities.

Landman Report Card, a site that looks at companies involved in gas and oil leases.FracFocus, a compilation of chemicals used in fracking individual wells as reported voluntarily by some drillers.

Chesapeake Energy Corp,the Oklahoma-based firm is the No. 1 driller in Ohio.

Rig Count Interactive Map by Baker Hughes, an energy services company.

Shale Sheet Fracking, a Youngstown Vindicator blog.

National Geographic's The Great Shale Rush.

The Ohio Environmental Council, a statewide eco-group based in Columbus.

Buckeye Forest Council.

Earthjustice, a national eco-group.

Stop Fracking Ohio.

People's Oil and Gas Collaborative-Ohio, a grass-roots group in Northeast Ohio.

Concerned Citizens of Medina County, a grass-roots group.

No Frack Ohio, a Columbus-based grass-roots group.

Fracking: Gas Drilling's Environmental Threat by ProPublica, an online journalism site.

Penn State Marcellus Center.

Pipeline, blog from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Marcellus shale drilling.

Allegheny Front, environmental public radio for Western Pennsylvania.