The French are seriously considering banning offshore drilling and fracking for oil and gas, a move that would significantly restrict access to the oil and natural gas reserves of the Gulf of Mexico.
The country is home to more than 30 trillion cubic feet of oil and about 60 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
The government, however, is not yet in a position to impose a moratorium on exploration or fracking operations.
“The French government has stated that the government will take all necessary measures to prevent the spread of oil spills, the spread and the exploitation of unconventional oil and petroleum resources,” a statement from the French National Assembly said.
In addition, the statement also warned that any oil or gas activity that would endanger the environment could result in criminal charges.
The French government said it was not considering a ban on exploration, but it is reviewing the issue.
“While there are some countries that have taken measures that would restrict the exploitation and the extraction of unconventional energy, such as in Australia, we don’t have any restrictions in France,” Interior Minister Manuel Valls said during a visit to a petrochemical factory in the southwestern French town of Bordeaux on Wednesday.
The statement from Valls was not clear what those measures might be.
The move would come as the country prepares for the first official oil spill in nearly two decades.
On Friday, the government said more than 400 people were evacuated from the area in the wake of the spill, which is the worst oil spill since a BP disaster in the Gulf in 2010.
On Wednesday, the French Interior Ministry announced it would begin a public inquiry into the spill.
The company BP said the incident occurred after a well was accidentally fracked.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.