After almost six months I have received a reply to my letter to the Head of Unit - Enforcement, Infringements co-ordination and legal issues at the European Commission in Brussels concerning due process in the event of shale gas exploration in France and the fact that currently the EU is of the view that a tightening of regulations is unnecessary.
'The Commision considers that shale gas exploration and exploitation projects fall under the Directive 2011/92/EU on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment. It implies that, before a shale gas exploration or exploitation project comes to life, the operator has to assess the likely significant environmental impacts (e.g. upon nature, water resources, landscape ) of the project. It would also imply that the operator would not be able to start a project without obtaining a permit. In the framework of the development consent procedure, the public and environmental authorities must be given the right to express opinions on the permit request and to get access to the decision to grant or not a permit. Those opinions should be taken into account by the competent authority in the development consent procedure. In cases where a permit is granted to an operator for a shale gas exploration/exploitation project, members of the "public concerned", including NGOs, will be entitled to challenge at the national level the legality of the decision. This position was communicated to France by letter of 12th December 2011'.
So that's all right then!