German government agrees to ban fracking after years of dispute

Agence France-Presse

German politicians have approved a law that bans fracking, ending years of dispute over the controversial technology to release oil and gas locked deep underground.

The law does not outlaw conventional drilling for oil and gas, leaving it to state governments to decide on individual cases.

But fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, which blasts a mixture of water, sand and chemicals underground to release shale oil and gas, will be banned.

Only a handful of projects for scientific or non-commercial purposes are likely to meet the conditions.

Fracking has been largely unregulated in Germany until now, and the current coalition government under Angela Merkel has been working for months to draw up new rules.

The coalition put forward a draft law on the issue in April 2015, but the text was mothballed due to strong divisions over the subject.

But the government revived the proposal at the last minute as companies, tired of waiting for a legal framework, last week said they would push ahead with fracking projects that had been on hold for five years.

The German population is deeply suspicious of fracking and fears its impact on the environment and, in particular, drinking water resources.

But the industry ran an intense campaign to at least keep the option open for the technology to be used.

Gas producers such as Wintershall and Exxon Mobil had initially agreed to a five-year moratorium on their extraction projects, but lostpatience with the authorities.

The opposition Greens have accused the government of rushing through the vote by using the twin distractions of the British EU referendum and the Euro 2016 football championship to push through a text that it says is too lax.