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No Fracking in Germany for Now Backed in Merkel Coalition

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic bloc and the Social Democratic Party agreed to a temporary ban on exploring unconventional natural gas reserves in Germany until environmental issues are resolved.

Coalition negotiators decided that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, using toxic chemicals can’t be done in Germany because the practice may threaten the quality of the country’s drinking water, Deputy Environment Minister Katherina Reiche and the SPD’s Ute Vogt told reporters today in Berlin.

“We have agreed on a moratorium on unconventional exploration that is to be in place until it’s clear that there are no health implications,” Vogt said after a meeting of the negotiating group that’s part of coalition talks between Merkel’s bloc and the SPD. The agreement requires approval by party leaders.

Tapping German shale gas has gained importance in the agenda as industry is forced to pay rising energy costs as a result of Merkel’s nuclear exit. Fracking typically involves drilling hundreds of wells and cracking rock with a high-pressure mixture of water, sand and chemicals to unlock gas or oil.

The possible use of fracking has sparked opposition from local residents and even German brewers on concern it could taint the purity of the country’s beer. Merkel’s second-term coalition partner, the Free Democrats, had opposed a fracking moratorium, delaying an agreement on the practice until after the Sept. 22 elections, Environment Minister Peter Altmaier said in June.

The exploration industry has begun research to stop using chemicals when fracking and, if successful, the ban may be lifted, Reiche said. “We expect a technological solution for this problem,” she said.

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