French ban on shale gas drilling passes lower house

PARIS Wed May 11, 2011 3:11pm EDT

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PARIS (Reuters) - France's lower house of parliament approved a bill on Wednesday that would ban shale gas drilling due to environmental concerns, as a freeze on the controversial practice remains in effect.

The bill will be considered by France's Senate in June.

The technique of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, involves injecting water, sand and chemicals into shale rock formations at high pressure to force out oil and natural gas.

Opposition has centered over potential pollution from the large amounts of water and some detergent used in the process.

The bill, introduced by President Nicolas Sarkozy's UMP party, forbids hydraulic fracturation and revokes existing shale gas permits.

In March, the government extended its moratorium on research and drilling for shale oil and gas, pending commissioned reports to establish their environmental impact.

Prime Minister Francois Fillon has said that France will not rule out research to develop new forms of the technology that would be less damaging to the environment.

The authorities have granted exploration permits in southern France for shale gas and oil to companies including Total and GDF Suez.

(Reporting by Emile Picy, Writing by Alexandria Sage)

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