France Blocks Melrose Bid to Extend Offshore Exploration Permit

France blocked the extension of an oil and natural-gas exploration permit held by Melrose Resources Plc (MRS) in the Mediterranean Sea, holding off on approving the application as it faces calls to prohibit offshore drilling.

The Energy Ministry today published a list of permits, requests for extensions and applications for new licenses, which indicated no decision had been made on the Melrose venture. A spokeswoman for the ministry confirmed it had been “blocked.”

Melrose and partner Noble Energy France applied to the government for a license extension to November 2015. Drilling in the Mediterranean Sea was criticized by former President Nicolas Sarkozy, who said in April it was a “crazy idea” that could harm the region’s scenery. The Non aux Hydrocarbures en Mer movement, meaning No to Offshore Hydrocarbons, has warned of the dangers of pollution linked to oil exploration in the area.

The Energy Ministry published a map of France that includes data on all permits and applications. That will be followed by a “thorough” overhaul of France’s mining code, Nicole Bricq, the new energy minister under President Francois Hollande, said in a statement. It’s “intolerable” that the code doesn’t currently require information about licenses to be made public, she said.

France last year became the first country in the world to ban hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a technique used in the U.S. to extract oil and gas from shale rock. Criticism of fracking plans in France included claims that attribution of licenses wasn’t sufficiently transparent.

A spokesman for Edinburgh-based Melrose wasn’t available to comment immediately.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tara Patel in Paris at tpatel2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Will Kennedy at wkennedy3@bloomberg.net

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