Pressure grows to stop controversial MidCat gas pipeline
Spanish government and EU have to decide whether to resume major infrastructure project passing through middle of Catalonia
MidCat is a much-contested project to build a gas pipeline that will go through Catalonia aimed at linking natural gas systems in France and Spain. No work has been done on the infrastructure for the past three years, but with the change of government in Madrid the future of the pipeline has once again been thrust into the center of controversy.
An initial 87-km stretch of the pipeline between the Catalan towns of Martorell and Hostalric was completed in 2012, but the project was put on hold due to a lack of interest from the French authorities. Originally approved by the former PP government, whether to finish MidCat now threatens to become a headache for Pedro Sánchez's Socialist executive.
The pipeline project has plenty of people, parties and organizations against it in Catalonia, who generally criticize the project for its negative environmental impact. For example, at the start of the year the Girona regional council passed a motion against the pipeline that was put forward by the far-left CUP party.
Pressure to abandon the project is also coming from Brussels, where one of MidCat's main advocates, EU commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete, will soon leave his post as the head of Climate Action and Energy. Although a private project, some seven million euros of EU funding has been devoted to viability studies, which its detractors claim is a waste of money.
Opposition to the pipeline from the start
Opposition has dogged the Midcat project ever since it began in 2012. The Spanish company behind the project, Enagás, was accused of a lack of rigor in planning, executing and managing the project. Yet, Enagás told the Catalan News Agency (ACN) that "the push for energy connections in Europe is always positive for safeguarding the supply of gas."
Apart from Enegás, the MidCat project, which stands for Midi-Catalunya, also involves the French company, Teréga. The original plan to build the 227-kilometre gas pipeline connecting France and Spain was valued at 3.1 billion euros. The route the pipeline is to take goes from Hostalric to Barbaira, in France, passing through Figueres.