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Europe votes to tighten rules on drilling method

European Union lawmakers voted narrowly Wednesday to force energy companies to carry out in-depth environmental audits before they deploy a technique known as “fracking” to recover natural gas from shale rock.

The technique involves shooting a cocktail of water, sand and chemicals under pressure into shale to break it up and release the gas. France has already banned the technique, also known as hydraulic fracturing. And it has produced protests in Britain.

The rules were narrowly approved the European Parliament, which is meeting this week in Strasbourg, France, and still must undergo another round of voting in the Parliament once an agreement on the final language is reached with EU governments. Shale gas projects that do not use fracking would not be covered by the rules, which update environmental legislation in Europe.

Even so, the result is a setback for the shale gas industry in Europe, where it is far less developed than in the United States and where many citizens are more concerned about the environmental impact of recovering the gas than about finding new sources of hydrocarbons as a way of combating stubbornly high energy prices.

Industry groups immediately condemned the result as more red tape for European business at a time when the Continent is seeking growth after five years of economic crises.

“In its current form, the proposed revision clearly goes against the trend to minimize the regulatory burden on business in order to facilitate the economic recovery and strengthen the competitiveness of our industrial core in the EU,” said Markus J. Beyrer, the director general of BusinessEurope, a powerful industry body based in Brussels.

Representatives of BusinessEurope said they were also concerned by new requirements in the draft rules to carry out assessments for preserving the natural environment before starting infrastructure projects like building airports and railways.

—James Kanter, The New York Times

Blackberry founders explore bid for company

OTTAWA, Ontario — The two men who founded the company that became BlackBerry may now try to save it.

In a regulatory filing Thursday, Mike Lazaridis and Douglas Fregin said that they were considering a bid for the 92 percent of the company that they do not already own. They also said that they had hired Goldman Sachs and Centerview Partners as advisers.

Their potential bid joins a growing list of expressions of interest in the company, which recently reported a $1 billion quarterly loss caused by the market’s rejection of new smartphones that were supposed to revive BlackBerry’s prominence.

Fairfax Investment Holdings of Toronto has made a conditional, nonbinding offer to buy the 90 percent of BlackBerry shares it does not own for $9 each. That would value the company at about $4.7 billion.

Many investors are skeptical about Fairfax’s ability to finance that proposal by bringing in other investors and borrowing billions of dollars. Similar questions would apply to any rival offer from Lazaridis and Fregin, who are not working with Fairfax at the moment, according to a person briefed on the matter.

—Ian Austen and Michael J. De La Merced, The New York Times

US offer would let some states open parks

The governors of at least four states expressed initial interest in an offer Thursday from Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to allow them to reopen national parks in their states, although it remained unclear whether any such deals could be reached soon.

After more than a week of requests from several states that they be allowed to reopen parks closed by the federal government shutdown, Jewell said the administration would be willing to consider such agreements as long as the states agreed to pay the full operating costs, including the salaries of all federal park employees.

“South Dakota, Utah, Colorado and Arizona have all expressed some initial interest in exploring a potential agreement,” said Blake Androff, chief spokesman for the Interior Department in Washington. “But discussions are in the early stages. No formal offers have been submitted.”

In Utah, officials hailed the offer as a breakthrough that could defuse rising tensions over the closing of the state’s five national parks. Utah’s governor, Gary R. Herbert, has urged the Interior Department to let the state use its own money to reopen them.

South Dakota’s governor, Dennis Daugaard, also spoke with Jewell on Thursday about the new offer.

“This announcement today is a welcome change,” said the governor’s spokesman, Tony Venhuizen. “The governor is hopeful it can lead to a solution that reopens Mount Rushmore.”

—Rick Lyman, The New York Times

On Iran talks, Congress could play ‘bad cop’

WASHINGTON — When Iranian diplomats sit down in Geneva on Tuesday with the United States and five other world powers for a new round of talks about Iran’s nuclear program, Congress will not have a seat at the table. But that doesn’t mean it won’t have a voice.

With a tough new Iran sanctions bill teed up in the Senate, following the overwhelming passage of similar legislation by the House in July, lawmakers are poised to do one of two things: They could tighten the screws on Iran’s leaders in a way that helps produce a nuclear deal. Or they could foul up delicate diplomacy at a crucial moment.

The Senate Banking Committee, under pressure from the Obama administration, agreed to put a brief pause on its bill to avoid spoiling the first bargaining session in Geneva. But the committee’s chairman, Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., has told Secretary of State John Kerry that he plans to move forward with the bill in coming weeks.

—Mark Landler, The New York Times