Var Mayors May Boycott Ballot over Schiste

Local Mayors in the Var département – angry at ongoing threats from shale gas concessions – warn they may not put up the physical wherewithall to enable voters to cast their ballots in the forthcoming presidential elections.

Locals are highly concerned about the side effects of fracking for shale gas

(Read more French News here)
Mayors organize the polling booths, supply the scrutineers, collect the ballot boxes and count the votes in small towns and villages all over the region and if they did carry out their threat they could affect the outcome of the April 22 first round in the two-tier election.

As we reported earlier elected officials in the Var have been vociferous leaders of the fight against the exploitation of shale gas, and some are now brandishing the boycott weapon to bring further pressure to bear on the government.

The Var Collective Against Schiste Gas which opposes the Permis de Brignoles in the départements of Var and Alpes de Haute Provence on the Mediterranean, has been stirring up support for its ongoing campaign with comparisons to the 11-year national struggle by Larzac sheep farmers who in 1971 opposed efforts to annex their land for a military training camp.

Pierre Jugy, the politically un-aligned Mayor of Tourtour, a small village in Haut Var told Europe1 radio station that several mayors in his area were willing to follow him in this highly symbolic (and disruptive and ultimately undemocratic) action, according to a report in Le Figaro.

Schuepbach Energy LLC, a U.S. registered drilling company in Dallas, Texas  has since 2008 held a license to explore for shale gas over 6785 km2 around the town of Brignoles, and covering three quarters of the Var and part of the Alpes Maritimes.  The government last year suspended all  shale gas exploration work but opponents in the Var want the license abrogated and cancelled.

“If we do not get a response from the presidential candidates to our concerns over what they plan for our area, we will lock the Town Halls on polling day,” Pierre Jugy told Europe1. “The prefecture will then have to organise the election but we will not provide any help because we would never be able to look our children and grandchildren in the eyes when they ask us: why did we have to leave our villages because you allowed the water supplies to get polluted.” Pierre Jugy was elected on a platform to oppose shale gas in the Var.


The extensive area affected by shale gas exploration permits is shown here

Those against shale gas drilling fear that hydraulic fracturing, a technique that requires deep injection of large quantities of chemical slurry to recover the gas stored in underground rock formations, endangers the environment and underground aquifers.

Mobilization is very strong in the Var, where since the end of 2011, 55 municipalities have enacted bylaws to hinder the exploration of shale gas. There is also a growing protest movement  in Marseille and Toulon opposed to offshore exploration permits granted in the Med.

However Senator Hubert Falco, who is also Mayor of Toulon, told the radio station: “Boycotting democratic elections when you are mayor, is indefensible. I also oppose plans for shale gas in the Var, but there are other ways to fight against these proposals. “

Le Figaro has a useful interactive presentation here

Story: Ken Pottinger



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