French president François Hollande has announced that there will be no shale gas exploration or exploitation in France during his presidency.
Hollande said France’s current ban on hydraulic fracturing would remain, and seven applications that have been made for fracking permits would be rejected.
The applications were made by Total, Schuepbach Energy, and the 3Legs Resources oil and gas group.
The French president said there was currently no evidence that fracking could be carried out without heavy risks for the environment and people’s health.
In June 2011, the previous government voted in a law banning fracking, but opposition members of parliament and ecologists considered the legislation to be too vague.
Euro-MP José Bové, who is at the forefront of the battle to prevent shale gas exploitation in France, welcomed Hollande’s announcement, saying the president had, “without ambiguity”, closed the door to fracking.
He has since added that there are numerous “ambiguous projects” that need to be scrutinised and that, while the “code minier”, which governs mining activities in France, is being reformed there should be a moratorium on all projects that could lead to fracking.
During protests throughout France on Global Frackdown Day on September 22, activists warned that there was still a danger that multinationals would find ways to exploit shale gas and shale oil. They could use another technique that would not be subject to the current ban.
There are still 60 exploration permits in place in France, and dozens of requests for exploration licences that could eventually lead to fracking.
Mayors in the area around Alès in the south of France are battling to prevent the company Mouvoil bringing seismic thumper trucks into the region and starting exploration work.
Total, meanwhile, is appealing against the revoking last year of its Montélimar licence, which covers one million acres northeast of Montpellier.
Shale gas fracking is highly dangerous for the environment and contaminates water supplies. It involves using a high-pressure blast of water, sand, and chemicals to create a shockwave to break open cracks deep in the earth and shift the gas into collection areas.
In Quebec, the new Natural Resources Minister, Martine Ouellet, says the Parti Québécois government will impose a complete moratorium on the exploration and exploitation of shale gas. She said she didn’t foresee a day when there would be technology that would allow safe exploitation of the gas.