France today upheld its nationwide ban on fracking due to fears the process may cause long-term environmental damage.
The move follows a number of high-profile protests against the practice in Britain, where energy firms have been allowed to undergo exploratory drilling.
Fracking involves injecting a mixture of water, sand and chemicals into the ground at high pressure to crack shale rock holding oil and gas reserves deep underground.
But despite efforts by US company Scheupbach Energy (SE) to start drilling into France's plentiful reserves, the country's Constitutional Court today upheld a 2011 moratorium on the process.
Socialist president Francois Hollande is opposed to fracking, based on the legal concept of ‘precaution’.
He supports environmentalists who link the practice with a range of problems, including pollution and minor earthquakes.
Marc Fornacciari, SE’s barrister, told the Paris court that ‘there is not a single study showing that fracking presents the slightest risk.’
The Dallas-based company tried to convince the Constitutional Court that the 2011 ban was discriminatory. But Thierry-Xavier Girardot, for the French government, argued the environmental dangers of fracking were ‘sufficiently acknowledged’ to justify a ban.
SE's permit to explore shale reserves in Aveyron and Ardeche in the south of France have been revoked, and the new ruling confirms this.
Anti-fracking protesters set up a camp near Balcombe, West Sussex, over the summer as energy firm Cuadrilla drilled for oil.
Cuadrilla has now submitted new plans to carry out 'flow tests' to determine the rate of extraction at the well after test-drilling found oil in rock samples.
Fracking has revolutionised the energy industry in the USA, despite the huge amounts of water that have to be transported to a fracking site, at huge environmental cost.
There are also fears that potentially carcinogenic chemicals can escape and contaminate groundwater around the fracking site. Two small earthquakes of 1.5 and 2.2 magnitude hit the Blackpool area in 2011 following fracking.
Environmental campaigners further argue that fracking is preventing energy firms and governments from investing in renewable sources of energy, and encouraging continued reliance on fossil fuels.
Friends of the Earth energy campaigner Tony Bosworth said: ‘We need a 21st century energy revolution based on efficiency and renewables, not more fossil fuels that will add to climate change.’