France's top court to review law banning shale gas fracking

PARIS Fri Jul 12, 2013 1:28pm EDT

An employee of European Gas Limited works on British company's coalbed methane exploration site outside Folschviller, eastern France, February 4, 2013. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

An employee of European Gas Limited works on British company's coalbed methane exploration site outside Folschviller, eastern France, February 4, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Christian Hartmann

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PARIS (Reuters) - France's top court said it would examine a challenge to a law that bans hydraulic fracturing, the drilling technique used to produce shale gas and oil.

U.S. firm Schuepbach Energy, which held two exploration permits that were canceled in 2011, has contested the law.

The Constitutional Council, made up of judges and former French presidents, has the power to annul laws if they are deemed to be unconstitutional.

"It is now up to the Constitutional Council to decide whether the law is constitutional, within three months," the court said.

Schuepbach Energy challenged the law in the local court of Cergy-Pontoise near Paris, which forwarded the case to France's highest administrative court, which then passed it on the Constitutional Council.

Fracking was banned in France in 2011 under President Nicolas Sarkozy on concerns it could pollute groundwater and trigger earthquakes.

After France put the ban in place, Schuepbach Energy said it had no alternative way to carry out the exploration, which led to the suspension of its two permits in the south of France.

Prime Minister Jean-marc Ayrault on Thursday ruled out any exploration and production of shale gas, after Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg earlier in the week said he was personally in favour of producing shale gas in a clean manner.

(Reporting by Marion Douet and Muriel Boselli; editing by Gus Trompiz and Jane Baird)

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