Basque government rejects gas exploration project in Armentia (Subijana)


At last. At last, the Basque government rejects the gas exploration project in Armentia (Subijana, Araba). At last, because it has been difficult to make it desist.

On October 14, 2011, Basque citizens learned that our lehendakari (autonomous president) was in Dallas, from where he announced, after visiting fracking companies, the existence of gas in our territory to satisfy all Spanish consumption for five years. He thus joined an international boom which had the United States as its epicenter, consisting of exploiting gas and oil in shale by means of the hydraulic fracturing technique, and above all the commercialization of this technique, which for the USA was another big business. Soon a multitude of shale deposits appeared everywhere. In this way, the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country (ACBC (CAPV)), was also trying to fulfill an old dream of energy self-sufficiency.

President Patxi López in Dallas in 2011

However, information about fracking and, above all, reports and complaints about the impacts of fracking in the USA did not take long to arrive. An unprecedented disaster that alerted the communities of the affected territories. In the ACBC (CAPV), the mainly threatened area was Araba, an area of great agricultural production and interest.

In 2014, social movements, the Basque anti-fracking movement, promoted an ILP (Popular Legislative Initiatives) for Basque MPs to debate fracking in the Basque parliament. To this end, it obtained 103,589 signatures. As a result of that debate, the parties agreed to ban fracking in the ACBC in June 2015.

Then came also the PSOE government with its Ministry for Ecological Transition. However, this was not enough of an obstacle for the PNV, which tried to continue with the issue. In 2019, at the gates of the summit against climate change COP25, the socialist government of the PSOE admitted the PNV to explore in Armentia. This concession was a payment from the PSOE to the PNV for supporting them in their motion against the PP government. Then, they announced the new exploitation in a conventional way, although they did not manage to gather enough support in the different institutions to make it possible. The fear has always been that once this well was started, the others will continue, because it is not understood only exploration without exploitation, nor in a site only when the deposit is predicted to be much broader.

Protest against Fracking in Vitoria-Gasteiz before the ILP

Even so, it is well known the continuous gas leaks in infrastructures of this type. In this case, in addition, the exploitation coincides with the Subijana aquifer.

In this equation, one institution stands out, Shesa (Sociedad de Hidrocarburos de Euskadi S.A.). Shesa was created by the Basque government in 1983 for the exploration of hydrocarbons, and is dependent on EVE (Ente Vasco de la Energía). Obviously, its activity is residual, and it would need fracking or projects such as those mentioned above to justify its existence.

On April 8, the Ministry of Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge published the new Climate Change and Energy Transition Law. This new law has different limitations according to environmental organizations. But one of its main objectives is to get rid of fossil fuels and reduce greenhouse emissions. The law will prohibit drilling and prospecting for fossil fuels such as fracking. For this reason, the Basque government announced to rule out explorations in Subijana.

Fracking blocks in Araba: Mirua, Usapal, Urraca, Enara, Libra, Usoa, Ebro-D, Angosto-1

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