Campaigners Shift Focus to Shale Oil

José Bové, a leader in the fight against shale gas exploration in France is urging the government to “remove the ambiguity” surrounding the exploration of oil shale.

Bové, a member of the European Parliament and closely associated with Europe Écologie, a coalition of French environmentalist political parties, is targeting the possibility of exploratory drilling for oil shale commencing after April 15  in the Paris Basin located in the Seine-et-Marne department.

"Things seem pretty clear on shale gas, where all projects are blocked (until June). There is however an ambiguity in oil shale," said Bove

Concerns voices about the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing used in unconventional resource extraction spurred the French government to announce the suspension of three licenses granted for the exploration of gas shales, pending a report by an assessment mission on environmental issues which is due in June.

Prospecting permits for shale gas were granted in March 2010 to explorers including Total SA, Schuepbach Energy LLC and GDF Suez in the departments of Hérault, Aveyron, Lozère, Ardèche and Drôme in the south of France.

Hydraulic fracturing was also not permitted in the Paris Basin until the release of the June findings.

However the drilling of traditional (as opposed to unconventional) wells, would be permitted after submission of preliminary findings, expected on April 15.

"If we want to be consistent, all permits should be treated the same way," said Mr. Bove. "We must resolve this ambiguity."

Toreador Resources and its partner Hess, still plan to conduct exploration drilling of oil shale in the town of Doue (Seine-et-Marne) after April 15th.

In the letter addressed to the inhabitants of Doue, the two companies say that shale oil exploration "is neither dangerous nor environmentally destructive."

French lawmakers opposed to unconventional resources exploration have been stepping up their activity in the National Assembly.

On Friday, Christian Jacob, President of the L'Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP) in the National Assembly and the elected representative for Seine-et-Marne, filed a bill to prohibit the exploitation of shale gas and to repeal the permits already granted by the government.

The Socialist Party has also introduced a bill calling for a ban on exploration and exploitation of unconventional oil and in addition to repealing the permits already granted. Members of National Assembly will discuss the proposal in public session on May 12.

Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, the Minister for Ecology, has stated that licenses already granted can not be cancelled as it would subject the Government to significant claims for damages.

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