A report by top German current affairs magazine, Der Spiegel, that the German government is set to soften its stance on fracking, has been strongly denied by the country’s environment minister.
Barbara Hendricks, dismissed media reports of the German government intentions to soften the fracking ban, but she did not rule out certain "rare" exceptions.
“In general, fracking with environmentally toxic substances is prohibited,” she told Deutschlandfunk radio.
“That is also what we determined in the coalition agreement and this ban absolutely does not expire,” the social democrat said.
Der Spiegel had reported that trial drilling was possible if expert committees made up of at least six scientists showed no concerns.
In addition, the report indicated intentions to omit a paragraph stating that only fracking deeper than 3,000 metres would be permitted. A corresponding measure was expected to be passed through the Bundestag this year, Der Spiegel’s article added.
According to the news magazine the softening on shale had been brokered through discussions with Chancellery Minister Peter Altmaier, at the initiation of the economic wing of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the Mining, Chemicals and Energy Trade Union and the Federation of German Industries.
However Hendricks reinforced that commercial fracking above 3,000 metres will not be permitted, and remains subject to an unlimited ban.
Trial drilling can be conducted for scientific reasons, but only without the use of water polluting fracking substances, the Environment Minister said.
At the same time, she did not rule out the prospect that gas fracking could be allowed in Germany at some point in time. “If, at an unforeseeable time, it can be scientifically proven that [fracking] is completely harmless, then it may no longer be permanently forbidden.”
Meanwhile an Environment Ministry spokesman concurred with the view that fracking might well be permitted at a future date. “The state of science and research is not static; it is constantly evolving. That is why it would be completely wrong to set in stone such a ban on commercial fracking. That is neither how the state of science nor technology work in a democracy,” the spokesman explained.