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German officials propose 7-year ban on fracking

BERLIN — Germany’s energy and environment ministers are seeking a ban on shale gas and oil drilling over the next seven years because of worries that the practice could pollute drinking water and damage the environment. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government had planned to introduce legislation in the autumn to regulate hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, bringing an end to a de facto moratorium on the practice.

But Barbara Hendricks, minister for the environment and a member of the Social Democratic Party, part of the governing coalition, said Friday that a framework of key points on the legislation agreed to with Sigmar Gabriel, the economy and energy minister, would result in the “strictest regulations we have ever set.” “There will be no fracking for economic purposes in Germany in the near future,” Hendricks said. But shale drilling could be used for exploration, she added.

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Business leaders worry that Germany risks jeopardizing its position as an industrial leader if it refuses to consider exploring its shale-gas reserves.

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