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France bans 'fracking' after months of protest

France's parliament voted this week to ban a controversial method of extracting shale gas, but don't expect British Columbia to follow anytime soon.

"I don't know what France's environmental standards are and how they do their work," said B.C.'s Energy and Mines Minister Rich Coleman. "I know we've been doing fracking here for probably over a decade or more . . . We have pretty high environmental standards. We track it, we watch it, and we're going to continue to do so."

Fracking is a process that involves injecting rock formations with water, chemicals and sand to break them apart and allow the fossil fuels they contain to be extracted. Opponents say the process uses toxic substances and contaminates groundwater.

"What we're doing is a lot different even mix wise than some of these other jurisdictions," said Coleman. "We're so much deeper than they are. We're way down three or four thousand feet . . . and our ground water in the area we're doing is probably up at 300 or 400 feet, so we're way beyond below it and we haven't had any leaching."

The province plans to do a health study related to fracking, but unlike in some other jurisdictions the process is used in remote areas of B.C. far from residential areas, he said.

France's fracking ban still needs to pass the country's senate to become law. "The overwhelming vote by the National Assembly follows months of protest across France against a technique that environmentalists say threatens to pollute the water table," wrote the Financial Times.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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