April 13, 2011 / 4:37 PM / in 7 years

French government backs of shale gas rethink

<p>France's Prime Minister Francois Fillon watches models of power-generating windmill turbines at the stand of NORDEX during their opening tour at the "Hannover Messe" industrial trade fair in Hanover April 4, 2011. REUTERS/Morris Mac Matzen</p>

PARIS (Reuters) - The French government will support parliamentary motions to cancel permits issued for shale gas drilling in order to avoid potential environmental risks, Prime Minister Francois Fillon said on Wednesday. The government has already imposed a freeze on exploration of shale gas and oil until June pending the results of reports it has commissioned into the environmental impact of the extraction method of drilling into rock.

“The authorizations that have already been given must be canceled,” Fillon told the French parliament. “There are legislative proposals that have been tabled to do this. The government will support them.”

The hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, technique involves injecting water, sand and chemicals into shale rock formations at high pressure to force out oil and natural gas. Controversy has centered over potential pollution from large amounts of water and some detergent used in the process.

The lower house of parliament is due to debate motions on May 10 calling for shale gas permits to be revoked and all exploration to be banned in France.

Fillon said, however, that France should not rule out research to develop forms of the technology that would not harm 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 Gerard Bon; Writing by Gus Trompiz

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