Thousands Attend Anti Fracking rally in France
Between 7,000 and 15,000 protesters, depending on the sources, attended an anti-fracking protest on February 28 in the small town of Barjac. They turned out in response to the decision made by the administrative court of Cergy Pontoise to re-award to Total a 4,327 km² permit the oil company owned before the French parliament passed a fracking ban in 2011.
“The legal decision made people so angry and expanded our movement because politicians have not done their job,” said protest movement Stop Gaz de Schiste, which organised the event.
Protesters sent a clear message to the French government: “No more promises, we want actions,” the lobby group said. Environmental activists are asking for a ban on all licenses, of which there are possibly over 100. They are calling for France’s energy minister to consider a bill as soon as possible aimed at banning shale gas exploration and development by any method.
Anti-fracking groups warn that if the government does not act, the demonstration would escalate. “The energy minister Segolene Royal made broken promises like her predecessors. Enough is enough. If the socialist government wants to pass a law, it must do it now. There is ten months left. If not, the demonstration which has remained peaceful since 2010 could plan some blockages,” said Stop Gaz.
Total revives the debate
The court decision revived the shale gas debate in France provoking an outcry on the left, not so much on the right.
Luc Chatel, the new leader of the national council of Les Republicains, the re-branded France right wing party, also a close adviser to former president Nicolas Sarkozy and current leader of the conservative party, said during his inaugural speech he wants he party to be “the party of innovation, GMOs and shale gas…”
For the opponents of shale gas, there is a sense of urgency to change an “imperfect law that can be bypassed” before François Hollande term ends in 2017. “Oil companies like Total got permits for 15 years banking on a balance of power which could put in charge political parties in favor of shale gas developments”.
Energy minister promises a reform of the mining code
Sabine Buis, a socialist member of the National Assembly presented a draft bill to her colleagues on January 27 that would include a ban on shale explorations. Her legislative proposal has not been discussed on the floor yet but Royal said on February 28 during an interview on France 3, a public television channel, that “there will be no shale gas exploration permits and that the ongoing mining code reform will include such a ban.” Royal previously said, on January 30 that the government would appeal the court decision. She also told lawmakers that the government should not grant new conventional or unconventional permits in the future to meet the climate goals set in Paris during the COP21 in Paris last December.
The rally was followed by a march in the streets of Barjac, a town locate in the department of Gard, an area impacted by the Montelimar permit. Several hundreds of local and national elected officials attended including the new leader of Europe-Ecology-the Greens, David Cormand.