France’s ban on fracking was finally completed Friday, as its constitutional court upheld a 2011 law prohibiting the practice and canceling all exploration permits. The decision posted on the court’s website said the ban “conforms to the constitution” and is not “disproportionate,” effectively protecting it from any future legal challenge.
U.S. driller Schuepbach Energy brought its complaint to the court after two of its exploration permits were revoked due to the ban. Schuepbach attempted to argue that since no study had established fracking risks, there was no cause for the ban, and that since fracking isn’t banned for geothermal energy projects, it was unfair. The court didn’t find that convincing, citing the differences between geothermal and shale gas exploration.
Environment Minister Philippe Martin framed the decision as a victory in the larger effort to limit fossil fuels and carbon emissions. “Beyond the question of fracking, shale gas is a carbon emitter,” he said in a statement. “We must set our priorities on renewable energies.”
And that’s not just talk. France has ambitious goals for a low-carbon future and is currently considering a tax on carbon emissions and a nuclear tax. Revenue would go to renewables and energy efficiency standards. France plans to cut fossil fuel use by 30 percent by 2030, at the same time that it de-emphasizes the nuclear power that provides three quarters of the nation’s energy.
“It’s a judicial victory but also an environmental and political victory,” Martin said. “With this decision the ban on hydraulic fracturing is absolute.”