France: A New Push to Ban Shale Exploration
A member of parliament for the socialist party, Sabine Buis, presented a new legislative draft on January 27. It would amend France’s mining code to ban not just fracking but all of the alternative techniques used to explore or develop non-conventional resources. If passed, the bill could end the fracking debate once and for all.
“I am pleased to fully enshrine in the mining code a ban on any development or exploration of non-conventional liquid and gaseous resources, as a principle, whatever extraction technique is used,” Buis said.
She cites the mining code reform as an area where the new environmental dialogue she is pushing for can be implemented. This new draft bill would require sharing scientific, economic and legal information with the public, the creation of a higher, public authority to facilitate debate, allow local authorities to consult the population, speed up the legal process before administrative courts and include environmental, social and economic criteria in the decisions.
Total appeal revives calls for mining reform
The left-wing member of the French parliament represents a district in the Ardeche department, one of the five to be hit by the Montelimar permit which was restored to French operator Total in late January.
The decision gave the environmental groups fresh supplies of ammunition. Advocacy groups have warned since 2011 that the fracking ban was voted “in a hurry to avoid a controversy before the 2012 presidential race begins,” as Nicolas de Metz, a member of Stop Gaz de schiste, the national coalition against fracking, said.
He said the law was imperfect as it allowed companies such as Total to explore non-conventional resources. “This case illustrates the need to strengthen the 2011 law and incorporate it within the mining code,” Buis said.
The member of the French parliament condemns some companies’ efforts to get back their permits repealed in 2011 when the fracking ban was enforced. “Other companies hold mining rights while planning to use hydraulic fracturing. Those are fake permits,” she adds.
A slow-moving legislative and political process
Ironically, history could repeat itself in 2016 with this new draft bill that will be presented at the office of the National Assembly in the coming days, one year from the next presidential election.
But it is still unclear if the proposed bill would become law in the short term or if amendments would be added especially in the senate controlled by the right wing opposition party.
Buis herself admitted it while explaining her legislative initiative on France Bleu Drome Ardeche, a local radio station on January 28. “If the bill is passed in its current form, it will ban any shale gas exploration or development in France.”
The French government has been accused of postponing the mining code reform time and time again. A consultation was launched by then prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, Manuel Valls predecessor, on July, 2012, less than two months after France‘s president François Hollande was inaugurated.
A bill was submitted on March 2015 based on the conclusions of a task force. Two months later, the National Assembly environment committee asked the government to accelerate the process of the reform, insisting on its urgency, but without using systematically executive actions. Eight months later, the bill has not been debated on the floor.
The overall objective of the reform is to include constitutional principles of the charter for the environment in the mining code and to ensure a high level of legal certainty of mining activities by modernising the mining code, implementing an effective public participation as mentioned in the charter for the environment and taking better account of public and workers’ safety as well as the environment protection.