PARIS: France’s constitutional council rejected yesterday a challenge to a law banning hydraulic fracturing for exploration and production of the country’s shale gas and oil.
The ruling is a boost for President Francois Hollande, who has opposed the technology alongside ecologist Greens in his ruling coalition — to the dismay of some allies who believe France is sacrificing access to a cheap source of energy.
US-based firm Schuepbach Energy had challenged on four counts a ban introduced in 2011 due to potential risks to the environment, which led to two of its exploration permits being cancelled in southern France.
“The constitutional council threw out these four complaints and ruled that the disputed components of the July 13, 2011 law comply with the constitution,” the court said in a statement.
The Constitutional Council, made up of judges and former French presidents, has the power to annul laws if they are deemed to be unconstitutional.
France’s Energy Minister Philippe Martin said the ruling meant the law banning fracking, in which pressurised water, chemicals and sand are pumped underground to release gas trapped in shale formations, was now safe from other legal challenges.
“It’s a legal victory, but also an environmental and political one,” Martin said at a news briefing.
The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates shale gas reserves worth five trillion cubic meters could lie in French soil, mainly in the Paris basin and the Rhone valley — equivalent to 90 years of current French gas consumption.