France is considering legislation that would ban the controversial oil and gas drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. According to a report in The New York Times, some members of conservative President Nicolas Sarkozyâ€™s party oppose fracking, in part because of problems shale gas fracking has caused in the U.S.
A debate on a possible French fracking ban began his week in the legislature. The National Assembly is expected to pass a ban on Wednesday, and the legislation will then go to the Senate.
Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, the environment minister, imposed a ban on exploration earlier this year, pending the results of a study, the Times said. However, she is on the record as being opposed to fracking, recently telling RMC Radio that it â€œis not something we want to use in France.â€
Fracking, which involves injecting a cocktail of water, sand and chemicals into shale formations at high pressure to shake loose gas and oil deposits, is increasingly used to drill for natural gas in the U.S. But as we have long reported, it is coming under increasing criticism here. Just this week, a study conducted by Duke University researchers became the first to link fracking with methane contamination of drinking water wells in Pennsylvania and New York.
Earlier this year, we also reported that a year-long Congressional probe found that drilling service companies have injected millions of gallons of diesel fuel underground during fracturing for natural gas. According to the investigation, various companies acknowledged injecting a total of 10 million gallons of â€œstraight diesel fuelâ€ during fracking, and another 22 million gallons of fracking fluid containing at least 30 percent diesel.
In the U.S, fracking is generally exempt from federal regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act, except when diesel fuel is used. However, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) never bothered to clarify rules on diesel until a report published by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) early last year found confusion among state regulators about the diesel rules. The EWG also found that many wells were being fracked with diesel without the proper permits. It was that report that prompted Congress to look into the issue of diesel fuel and fracking.
In March, a New York Times expose revealed potentially radioactive fracking wastewater could be making its way into rivers, lakes and streams that serve as drinking water supplies for millions of Pennsylvanians. Since then, the EPA has asked Pennsylvania to test drinking water supplies for radioactivity, and to re-examine permits previously issued to the treatment plants handling fracking waste.
Just last month, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection asked natural gas drillers to refrain from sending fracking wastewater to water treatment plants in the state. The request was made after an industry group acknowledged that such dumping was at least partially responsible for higher levels of bromides and other pollutants that have been measured in waterways in the western part of the state.