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France takes a step to ban 'fracking'

May 12, 2011 at 6:24 PM

PARIS, May 12 (UPI) -- The French National Assembly approved legislation Thursday that would ban the environmentally questionable natural gas extraction process known as fracking.

The Senate must still approve the measure for it to become law.

The extraction method involves pumping a mixture of water, sand and chemicals into shale deposits underground to force the rock to break apart, allowing gas to be released.

France24 reported Thursday protesters gathered outside Parliament as the vote was taken.

Some studies have shown underground water near hydraulic rock fracturing sites have become contaminated with methane. A documentary on the subject called "Gasland" showed methane leaks have caused illnesses and even killed cattle in area where fracking techniques have been used.

The ban in France was proposed by the UMP party to appease angry citizens who had discovered the government had been issuing fracking permits to energy firms, some of them covering parts of the country's most scenic regions.

Danielle Mitterrand, the widow of former Socialist President Francois Mitterrand, was one of those campaigning for a ban on the gas production process.

"We have to eradicate the use of shale gas, we must leave our Earth alone," Mitterrand said before the vote was taken.

While the ban has become a populist cause, the size of France's gas reserves in shale formations are unknown. A European Center for Energy and Resources Security study released last week estimated Europe could have its energy demands covered for 60 years if processes like fracking were allowed.

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