€100,000 fine to concession companies for unauthorised emptying of 4 reservoirs

by Lorraine Williamson
4 reservoirs

MADRID – The electricity companies that have emptied the 4 reservoirs Cenza, As Portas, Salas, and Belesar in the provinces of Ourense and Lugo must pay a provisional fine of €25,000 per reservoir. 

To this end, the Ministry of Environment, Territory, and Housing has initiated criminal proceedings against the concession companies involved. These are Iberdrola, Naturgy, and Endesa. As such, they carried out the emptying of the 4 reservoirs.  All under the purview of the Hydrographic Confederation of the Miño-Sil (CHMS). 

4 reservoirs

In any case, it seems like a very small amount in a country generally ravaged by drought. However, it is the maximum penalty provided by law for each of the 4 reservoirs that have been emptied and which are ‘likely to affect the fish fauna’. 

The emptying was carried out ‘without authorisation from the autonomous administration’. Electricity companies now have ten days to appeal. 

The Xunta Department has invoked Article 83 of the Regional Ordinance of River Fisheries to impose a sanction on concessionaires. This is “for failing to obtain the necessary authorisation to protect the fish population against possible exodus.” 

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It is emphasised as an ‘essential condition’ for the emptying that the concessionaire notifies the action ‘with at least one month’s notice to the competent authority’. Moreover, this is something which ‘the companies have not complied with’. 

Capacity under half 

Data for last Tuesday from the Ministry of Ecological Transition shows the capacity of the Miño-Sil basin is now at 47.8%. This is down 1.12% from the previous week. And is 23% the levels of one year ago when there were at 70.8%. Also, this includes the areas of Castilla y León.

Of the thirty dams that make up the demarcation, eight are with less than 40% capacity, two operated by Endesa, three by Naturgy, and three by Iberdrola. Among them are the government investigating As Portas and Censa, of Iberdrola; and Salas and Belesar, operated by Naturgy. In three of these facilities, the water supply has decreased slightly in the past week. 

85% of hydroelectric power in Galicia. 

Iberdrola and Naturgy control 85% of the hydroelectric power in Galicia. They, among others, were recently accused by several municipalities of the unauthorised emptying of reservoirs in Zamora and Caceres for their own benefit. The company is said to have done so in the context of rising gas prices and the consequent increased demand for hydropower production. The national government has now launched an investigation. 

Feijoo: ‘The matter must be taken seriously’ 

Meanwhile, Galicia regional president Alberto Núñez Feijóo accuses the central government of being responsible. Because there was no control over the emptying of the lakes in the Miño-Sil basin. Furthermore, the president urged the entire political class to take the matter seriously. “It gives the impression we are making fun of people,” he complained, wondering if “it is not a strategy agreed between the Confederation and the electric companies.” “I don’t want to think badly,” he added. 

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