French Fracking Ban Upheld


The Constititional Council has upheld a ban on hydraulic fracturing

The French ban on hydraulic fracturing has been upheld by the Constitutional Council following a legal challenge by energy company Schuepbach.

The following report was published by The Connexion:   The verdict comes as the European Commission said that future plans to exploit shale gas and oil reserves would require an environmental impact study, with French MEP Corrine Lepage saying: “For once, the general interest has won out.”

All moves to drill wells to explore for shale gas in France were halted after the Sarkozy government banned development in 2011 with the law against hydraulic fracturation, the only known method for extracting the gas.

Schuepbach challenged the withdrawal of drilling rights in the Ardèche, Gard, Hérault, Lozère and Aveyron as an “abuse” of the principle of precaution over the risk of environmental damage.

However, the government told the Conseil Constitutionnel the ban was not through precaution but prevention, aimed at preventing environmental problems as hydraulic fracturing carried pollution risks to underground aquifers.

Schuepbach said the ban was not being applied equally as hydraulic fracturing was still allowed for geothermal energy projects.

Fracking is considered dangerous because it uses millions of litres of water plus a cocktail of chemicals and sand to crack open the rock to let the gas escape. It is feared the chemicals can leach into water sources – and no chemicals are used in hydraulic fracturing for geothermal energy.

Anti-shale gas protests are to be held in many French towns on October 19 as part of a worldwide anti-fracking day.

An oil industry newsletter has said Schuepbach is claiming €1billion in damages over the withdrawal of its drilling rights, claiming lost profits over the next 50 years – although no study has shown there are proven resources.

Europe’s move to require an environmental impact study for hydraulic fracturing projects comes as the European Parliament reviews legislation that was passed before the controversial technique became well established.

European Commission Meeting – Voting Rights

Delegation meets with European Commission Vice-president

Brux-delegation0913On 5th September, at the invitation of Harry Shindler, I attended a meeting in Brussels at the European Commission representing Labour International. The meeting was with the vice-president of the Commission, Mme Viviane Reding, and her officials to discuss the problem of the disenfranchisement of citizens of some EU member states – principally the UK, but a total of 8 countries that deny their citizens the right to vote in national elections once they live outside their home country. There were also representatives of other political parties and interest groups present, including Brian Cave of Pensioners Debout, and at Harry’s invitation our delegation was fronted by Roger Gale MP (Con).

Mme Reding was very encouraging in her support and her team are investigating what action the EC might take to rectify the situation. She did, however, warn that the EC could not issue a Directive or take legal action unless given the competence by member states – usually in the form of a Treaty. She didn’t rule out the possibility of action through the European Court of Justice if there is a case to be brought on the grounds of restriction to the free movement Article. After she left the meeting we continued in discussion with her officials and legal team for a further hour, making points for them to investigate and answering technical questions posed by us.

She listened carefully to the arguments we put forward but said that we could not leave the matter totally in the hands of the Commission. As national elections currently remain in the competence of member states, it is up to the citizens of those states to bring pressure on their home governments. Our campaign must continue to persuade all parliamentary groups and political parties to change their attitude to expat voters in the hope of getting the 15-year cut-off removed from legislation and ultimately to get proper parliamentary representation.

The meeting concluded with lunch in the Commission restaurant where we discussed what further steps might be taken by the various groups to both assist the Commission and to increase pressure on the UK government. There was total unanimity amongst all present to change the Representation of the People Act amended as soon as possible.

Dick Smith
LICC member

French PM Rejects Shale Gas


Prime minister rejects shale gas

July 12, 2013

PRIME Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has rejected a call for a rethink in the shale gas debate and said the government will not allow its exploitation in France.

He was speaking after Industrial Renewal Minister Arnaud Montebourg told a committee planning reforms to the Code Minier – which sets the laws on development of underground resources – that he would like to see a state-owned company involved in “ecological” exploitation of shale gas (gaz de schiste).

Mr Montebourg’s challenge to government policy came just a week after Delphine Batho was sacked as ecology minister for criticising a 7% cut in her budget.   He had said that such development would allow the country to cut its imports of petrol and gas.

However, the prime minister replied that the government had two main objectives in its energy policy: to cut energy consumption, and in particular fossil fuel consumption, and to change the balance of energy sources, by reducing nuclear power from 75% to 50% by encouraging a switch to renewable energy sources.

New Ecology Minister Philippe Martin said there was no such thing as “ecological” exploitation of shale gas and received support from Housing Minister Cécile Duflot, of the Ecology Party.

However, other leading Socialists also want a rethink on shale gas policy with Nord MP Christian Bataille – who co-authored a report in favour of starting exploitation – saying that shale gas could allow France to cut its trade deficit, with 85% of that being due to oil imports.

Reprinted from The Connexion


Rush to Start Fracking


Lord Browne is the most senior business advisor to the tory led coalition government and chairman of the UK’s only shale gas driller.  He said that “We will finance whatever it takes. If we succeed, it will be billions, over 10 years it will be billions of finance to provide”. This, if technical problems to recover shale gas are overcome, would translate into tens or hundreds of billions of profit for gas explorers for decades to come.

We would  argue that although it produces smaller amounts of carbon dioxide when burned than coal, its adoption on the scale that Browne wants would mean that the UK would not meet its targets on reducing greenhouse gases and it would distract from other investment needed in truly green technologies.  There is a growing body of evidence from the United States, where fracking is far more developed, that there are inherent and unacceptably high environmental and health risks associated with coalbed methane and shale gas extraction.

Drilling on a small scale in the UK has already given rise to small earth tremors.  Villagers in Singleton, Lancashire, were woken by small earthquakes in April and May 2011, caused by fracking by Lord Browne’s gas drilling company.

Shale gas, for all its associated environmental and health risks, is unlikely to arrive quickly enough, in sufficient volume, to drive down UK prices to below international levels.

“We don’t want British businesses and families to be left behind as gas prices tumble on the other side of the Atlantic,” Osborne said in his Autumn statement to parliament in December 2012.  Other countries in Europe do not share his view and are hesitant to endorse fracking because of the concerns that it pollutes water.  See this video which shows some of the problems associated with fracking by clicking this link.

Letter to Sky News


You aptly reported all day on the 400,000 thousand French citizens living in the UK for whom 30 polling stations were open to cast their votes in the French Presidential election. In London, the 6th French city in the world, you showed thousands queuing up to vote and interviewed the French Ambassador to the UK. He underscored that the million French diaspora citizens are close to France, sharing the same tough issues as those living in France. They are also interested in schools, the international role of France, and ‘like everyone else in my country’ their concerns are roughly the same – unemployment and current crises, Does not the same apply to the millions of British expats who lose the vote after 15 years’ abroad?
The Home Office’s argument that after 15 years’ away, they are deemed not be connected to the UK and could change nationality, over-rides their human and civil rights in which the UK is out of step with its peers and out of conformity with international obligations. That right to vote is a fundamental tenet of the British Constitution. The right to vote without time restrictions is wholly consistent with relevant international instruments.  However, unlike many other countries, the UK is one of the most restrictive in depriving its expatriates of these democratic rights. British expats are also part of our community representing a core value of globalisation. They share their cultural heritage with others and constitute a rich, global network of resources and new energy to tap. Surely they deserve the same consideration as French citizens abroad?

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Kind regards,
Dr Sylvia Moore (M.Litt Oxon)
British global professional, resident in France