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Germany to Draft Anti-Shale Fracking Rules on Public Opposition

Germany plans to adopt regulation that will rule out shale fracking for the foreseeable future.

The government wants to ban hydraulic fracturing in shale rocks and coal beds at depths less than 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) and prohibit all types of fracking in water protection areas, Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks said today. The government will start drafting legislation and seek to adopt it in the second half, Hendricks told reporters today in Berlin. The rules will be re-evaluated in 2021.

Fracking is unpopular in Germany even as Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government is keen to develop domestic energy sources as it closes nuclear plants by 2022. While companies including Exxon Mobil Corp. have drilled test wells into unconventional gas reservoirs in Germany to emulate the U.S. shale-gas boom, little headway has been made because of public opposition.

The new rules, if adopted, would be “the strictest that ever existed in this respect,” the ministers said in a joint letter to the Social Democrats. “Fracking for shale and coal bed gas for economic reasons won’t be possible in Germany for the foreseeable future.”

Fracking for tight gas, which has been done in Germany since the 1960s, will remain allowed under stricter conditions for frack fluids, the ministers said. Fracking will be allowed for scientific purposes if the fluids aren’t harmful to water supplies, it said.

Not Far Enough

The rules don’t go far enough and leave “loopholes” to allow fracking at a later stage, said Julia Verlinden, energy spokeswoman for the opposition Green Party.

“If you want to prevent fracking, you don’t need science projects,” she said today in an e-mailed statement. “The risk to harm our ground and drinking water supplies with fracking doesn’t justify the short-term drilling for comparably little gas.”

Europe is divided into different camps on fracking, which involves drilling hundreds of wells and cracking rocks with a high-pressure mixture of water, sand and chemicals to unlock gas or oil from impermeable stone. It’s backed by nations including the U.K., Poland and Spain and opposed in countries such as France and Germany.

The oil and gas industry says fracking should be at least tested to keep the door open to a technology that may redraw the energy map across Europe by reducing reliance on Russia. Germany has shale gas reserves for about 10 years of full supply and “maybe much more than that,” Kurt Bock, the chief executive officer of the world’s biggest chemical maker BASF SE, said yesterday at a conference in Berlin.

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