* New rules set tough environmental standards
* Fracking for shale could be allowed from 2019
* Opposition to fracking strong in Germany
(Adds details, quotes)
By Caroline Copley
BERLIN, April 1 German Chancellor Angela
Merkel's cabinet signed off on a draft law on Wednesday that
imposes an effective ban on the controversial technique of
fracking for shale gas.
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, involves blasting
chemicals and water into rock formations to release trapped gas.
Opposition is strong in densely populated Germany due to
concerns about the risk of contaminating drinking water.
Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks said the new law
would set Germany's strictest conditions for fracking.
"Protecting health and drinking water are top priorities.
For this reason, we want to restrict fracking as far as
possible," Hendricks told a news conference.
The new law, which now goes to parliament for approval, will
impose an outright ban on fracking for shale gas in the next few
years and only allow scientific test drilling under strict
conditions to assess the risks and environmental impact.
The law could allow commercial shale gas fracking in
exceptional cases from 2019 but only after successful test
drilling and the approval of a special committee.
Germany's gas industry has warned restricting fracking could
increase the country's dependence on imported energy at a time
when geopolitical concerns, particularly over Ukraine, are
The BDI industry lobby group described the new conditions as
"completely over the top".
Last year, gas imports from Russia accounted for 37 percent
of Germany's supply. Only 12 percent of Germany's needs were
covered by its own reserves, down from almost a fifth a decade
The legislation will allow fracking for deep-lying or
"tight" gas, a technology that has been used for decades in
Germany. But even this type of fracking will be subject to
stricter rules and environmental audits, Hendricks said.
The ban will be extended to all areas that supply drinking
water, including dams and reservoirs, while fracking up to a
depth of 3,000 metres (3,300 yards) will also be prohibited.
Opposition to fracking remains strong in Germany and 79
percent of those surveyed for a Forsa poll in 2013 were in
favour of strict environmental regulations.
Europe had hoped to emulate a shale gas boom in the United
States which has helped to lower energy costs and boost
industry. But strong popular opposition, a recent slide in oil
prices and question marks over Europe's reserves have raised
doubts over the prospects for fracking.
Chevron Corp has decided to stop exploring for shale
gas in Poland because reserves did not lived up to initial
France and Bulgaria have banned fracking. It is allowed in
Britain but is subject to strict environmental and safety
guidelines and the Scottish government has imposed a moratorium
on granting permits for all unconventional oil and gas
(Editing by Madeline Chambers and Jason Neely)