Germany approves bill restricting hydraulic fracturing

Hydraulic fracturing operations in the United States have increased dramatically over the past decade. Indeed, hydraulic fracturing is also growing in other countries. Germany, however, appears to be taking a different approach. Recently, Germany’s cabinet approved a draft of a bill that would restrict hydraulic fracturing operations in the country.

Fracking in Germany will be subject to a number of restrictions. For example, hydraulic fracturing is barred in nature parks and water bore areas. Moreover, companies cannot engage in fracking operations above 3,000 meters unless the drilling is for research purposes and an expert panel concludes that the drilling will not cause any harm. Companies engaging in fracking for scientific purposes must also obtain a number of licenses. Hydraulic fracturing for commercial purposes is permitted under the draft law if the expert panel approves it.

The new bill has been the subject of criticism from several politicians, environmental groups, and unions. Some observers have argued that hydraulic fracturing should be further limited depending on the area in which fracking is operated. Like many environmental groups in the United States, some groups in Germany have argued that hydraulic fracturing will result in damage to the environment and pollution. That said, Germany’s federal environment minister has stated that a ban on fracking would contravene the principle tenets of the German constitution.

Some members of the German government have stated that they may reconsider their current position on fracking if future evidence suggests that environmental concerns are reduced. It is estimated that hydraulic fracturing operating in Germany could produce enough gas to satisfy the county’s gas demands for fourteen years. The current draft bill will now proceed to the upper house of parliament for review.

Read the law.

This post was written by Barclay Nicholson ( or 713 651 3662) and Johnjerica Hodge ( or 713 651 5698) from Norton Rose Fulbright's Energy Practice Group