France has become the first country to ban the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, according to French media reports.
Citing an article in Le Monde newspaper last week, naturalgaswatch.org reported the French government had prohibited the “exploration and exploitation of gas and oil shale” under mounting pressure from opponents.
The move follows a moratorium on fracking in the Canadian province of Quebec in March and a similar ban in New York State, the gas news site said.
Fracking is a controversial procedure in which thousands of gallons of water laced with toxic chemicals are injected deep underground to break up rock formations and free trapped natural gas.
The practice is seen as the key to accessing decades’ worth of natural gas supplies trapped beneath the U.S. in the Marcellus shale formation, which could help reduce the nation’s reliance on foreign oil. Propane and other NGLs are byproducts of gas drilling, so fracking has boosted their supplies significantly.
But the extraction method has been linked to serious water contamination problems in the U.S. And a recent Cornell University study found that fracking may generate more greenhouse gas emissions than coal mining due to the release of methane gas during the operation, triplepundit.com reported.
The French ban appears to follow concerns in the U.S. Earlier this year French Environment Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet said: “I’m against hydraulic fracturing. We have seen the results in the U.S. There are risks for the water tables and these are risks we don’t want to take.”
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is moving toward tighter fracking regulations. And while there is little likelihood of the U.S following in France’s footsteps, there are calls for greater risk disclosure here by the natural gas industry and better risk management to protect human health and safeguard the environment.
However, the natural gas industry has opposed further regulation, arguing that state oversight is sufficient and that new limits could undermine production.