France

Top French court considers scrapping fracking ban

A demonstration in Donzère in the Dordogne, south-west France, in 2011
A demonstration in Donzère in the Dordogne, south-west France, in 2011 AFP/Philippe Merle

France’s Constitutional Council is considering a bid to strike down a law banning hydraulic fracturing, the controversial oil and gas extraction process popularly known as fracking. Hearing arguments from the American oil company Schuepbach, which is challenging the law, and the government, which is defending it, the council said it would announce its decision on 11 October.

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Fracking – a process that involves pumping water mixed with sand and chemicals into wells to crack the shale rock and release pockets of oil and gas - has been linked to water contamination and even small earthquakes.

Oil companies say that these claims are unproven and that the method is safe.

The French law banning the process was passed in 2011 after months of street protests.

Environmental legislation in France is often based on the so called "precautionary principle", a legal concept that says something can be banned or limited even if it is not proven to be dangerous.

Instead, it must be proven not to be dangerous.

Lawyer Mark Fornacciari, who represented Schuepbach in court, told RFI that he argued that the law takes the precautionary principle too far.

Despite the ban, energy companies are still carrying out tests to find reserves.

On Sunday a group of about 30 activists chained themselves to a drilling platform, woned by US company Hess Oil, east of Paris.

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