BREAKING: French Court Could Re-Open the Fracking Debate
It’s a major development that came out of the administrative court of Cergy- Pontoise in the Paris area on January 8th that could potentially revive the shale gas debate in France, just a month after the climate agreement was reached in Paris and, maybe more importantly, a year before the next presidential election.
The court heard the appeal of TOTAL over the abrogation of one of its permits in South East France. The Montélimar permit is one of the French permits granted to several oil companies prior to the anti-fracking bill passed in 2011.
The public prosecutor is asking the administrative court to partly or fully overturn the repeal of the permit. It's surprising position given the fact that the same court ruled against Schuepbach few weeks ago in a similar case. In that case, the Texas oil company sued the French state for the repeal of its own permits.
The public prosecutor is arguing that TOTAL has no intentions to use the process of hydraulic fracturing in its operations. The controversial technique is banned in France since 2011. However, environmental groups do not trust TOTAL saying that the French company has not provided details on the exploration techniques it would use.
José Bové, one of the country's leading voices against fracking, warns that the court decision would challenge France's fracking ban. “If the administrative court of Cergy-Pontoise restores to Total its exploration permit, the shale gas ban would be undermined," Bové says. Bové, a member of the European Greens in the European Parliament, also sent a message to French president François Hollande. “The President and the government must reaffirm their opposition to shale gas developments. This permit covers a large area and does absolutely not need to be operational again.”
The political statement comes a month after the Paris agreement was reached at the COP21 summit. The agreement was considered a major achievement for the centre-left president who is thinking about his legacy and his re-election.
The court's decision will come by the end of January.