Brussels urged to reopen Spanish natural gas plant case

Catalan MEP calls on European institutions to re-investigate the case following Spanish court ruling

European flag (by EBS)
European flag (by EBS) / ACN

ACN | Brussels

January 11, 2018 04:54 PM

Catalan MEP Ernest Urtasun has urged the European Commission to reopen the investigation into the Castor project, which led to a rise in the price of natural gas, and thus the gas bills of consumers.

The Castor project aimed to turn an oilfield into a natural gas storage facility. However, it was cancelled after the offshore plant was linked to a wave of minor earthquakes that hit the Spanish Mediterranean coast in 2013. The tremors caused outrage among people living in the towns affected, mainly in the southern Catalonia and northern Valencia region. The project was subsequently cancelled.

Yet, the Spanish government granted compensation for the cancellation to the companies involved. One of the main firms taking part in the project is managed by Florentino Pérez, the president of Real Madrid football club. Consumers are thus paying the compensation for the cancellation of the project through their gas bills.

Recently, Spain’s Constitutional Court ruled that the price increase and the compensation to the companies is unconstitutional. With the Spanish court’s decision, the Catalan MEP has now asked the European executive to reopen and look into the case once again.

The Catalan MEP, from the Greens parliamentary group, addressed a letter to the European Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager, informing her of the Spanish Constitutional Court’s resolution. Urtasun claims that the court’s decision is “crucial”, as it means there are “serious doubts” over the legality of the compensation and over the fact that consumers are paying the compensation the company is receiving for the failed project.

Brussels never considered compensation illegal

In addition, Urtasun points out that the court’s conclusion may conflict with “the information offered by the Spanish authorities” to the European institutions. “At the time, we did not want the European Commissioner for Competition to believe that it was completely legal and that is why we now insist the case be reopened,” he said. In fact, the European Commission has never considered the compensation to be illegal, as the Spanish Constitutional stated. That is why Urtasun is now urging Brussels to investigate the case once again.