Shale Gas: Three of 64 Permits Revoked




France has revoked three of 64 permits granted to major energy companies to use hugely controversial ‘fracking’ methods for shale gas exploration in sensitive farming, wine and tourism areas..

Revoked – three shale gas fracking permits (but eco-groups insist the war is not yet won)

According to a report in France Soir France has revoked the permits in compliance with a law passed in May by the Assemblée Nationale (the lower house) that bans use of fracking in the search for and pumping of shale gas. The cancelled permits were initially granted to Total SA (the French oil major) and to Schuepbach Energy LLC (a US energy company).

President Nicolas Sarkozy on a pre-election rally through the Languedoc, the Cévennes and other former centres of Huguenot dissent (in the Wars of Religion) first heaped  praise on Protestants for their contribution to French culture, and then made sure he scored eco-points with anti-shale gas local authorities.

He announced that government was repealing shale gas research permits granted to Total and Schuepbach because while “development of hydrocarbon resources underground is strategic for our country” this should not occur at any price. President Sarkozy’s remarks were made during a visit to Ales in the Gard département and the Cévennes mountains bordering Aveyron, the base of Euro MEP José Bové, a popular leader of the anti-fracking campaign.

President Sarkozy added in a show of concern for the Cévennes mountain landscape — classified as a UNESCO world heritage site in June — that shale gas reserves development in this area might “fragment the soil and massacre the almost spiritual scenery” of the site.

Seeking to reassure sceptical locals the president added: “This (shale gas exploration) won’t be done until it has been shown that technologies used for development respect the environment, the complex nature of soil and the under ground aquiver networks.” His remarks came as environment and industry ministers confirmed they were cancelling the permit at Montélimar, the nougat centre of France, granted to Total and the Nant and Villeneuve-de- Berg permits awarded to Schuepbach Energy.

Valerie Pecresse the Minister for the Budget told the iTele television network: “While we have had to cancel the permits research must continue, all big developed countries are trying to find non-polluting technologies to exploit this incredible resource.” She said France clearly needed alternative energies and shale gas was one of them but fracking was “potentially toxic.”

How fracking works

According to a report on  the Doctissimo website the story behind the revocation of the permits is a little more nuanced than initially thought.  (See also Doctissimo’s earlier reports on what was actually decided by the change in law).

As of  July 13, 2011, Paris had issued 64 permits to companies to research the mining of shale oil and gas “. When the law changed the permit holders were given until September 13 to deliver “reports detailing the techniques they used or proposed to use in carrying out the research activities” (i.e. drilling and prospecting) as authorised by the permits. More importantly they were asked “to demonstrate the relevance of their planned prospecting” in the light of the new conditions now imposed on permit holders (….), that is to say prospecting without using hydraulic fracturing techniques now legally prohibited “

Following the submission of these reports by September 13, the three above-mentioned permits were revoked, while 61 others remain valid. The ministry statement announcing the revocation said: “the owners of the permits have no plans to search for shale gas and oil and all have made a formal commitment not to use hydraulic fracturing.”

Thus, the website goes on, the latest decision on fracking permits is not to the taste of everyone. Anti Shale gas campaigning groups welcome the repeal of three permits but have urged campaigners to stay alert.  The 07 Collective “Stop shale gas” has issued a statement claiming that “by repealing the three permits for  areas of the country where grassroots mobilization has been the strongest and best organized, the government hopes to break the dynamics of the protests around the country.

“For the 61 permits not repealed under this announcement, the Government has reassured  concessionaires they have carte blanche to continue explorations for industrial quantities of shale oil and gas and drilling explorations”, the collective added.

See Also: Strong concerns voiced by the Schiste Happens campaign.

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