Last summer, the electricity companies Naturgy and Iberdrola abruptly emptied four Galician reservoirs -Cenza, As Portas, Belesar and Salas- in the midst of a rise in electricity prices. In some of the cases the water level was lowered by up to 70%. The Ministry of the Environment reported this morning that will proceed to sanction both the two companies and the Miño-Sil Hydrographic Confederation (CHMS) based on the Galician fishing law. In total the fines will amount to 200,000 euros, of which 100,000 will go to the basin management body, dependent on the central government. The body of the Ministry of Ecological Transition has already announced that it will appeal.
For each of the reservoirs, the Xunta proposes a penalty of 25,000 euros for the electricity company and many others for the Hydrographic Confederation.
The Regional Minister for the Environment, Ángeles Vázquez, explained that the fines are established for “malpractice” and for not having communicated “officially” to the Autonomous Administration the emptying of the dams. But the basin management body insists that the communication did take place. In a press release, the president of the entity, José Antonio Quiroga, assures that the Galician administration “was fully aware” of the drop in the level of the reservoirs. “This was communicated by the concessionaires themselves and, when the decline reached levels below 20 percent, also by the CHMS from the Basin Control Center, as has already been shown,” says the president. Last summer, the Confederation alleged that it had notified the Provincial Environment Service in Orense and the Ministry of the Presidency through 112 in Galicia in the months of June and July. But the Xunta always insisted that it had not done so “formally”.
The CHMS also criticized that the Xunta takes “for granted” that this sanction is firm when it is still “in the period of allegations” of 10 days. “The councilor announces the sanction not only before the deadline for formulating allegations by the CHMS ends, but even before this basin organization has all the information that has been used by the regional administration to support its accusatory thesis,” he denounces. the institution directed by José Antonio Quiroga, who warns that this “It can be a cause of defenselessness.”
The reasons for the fine
The Xunta bases its sanction proposal on the Galician fishing law, which contemplates fines for the alteration of the level of the waters of the rivers when they can lead to damage to fish species. As stressed by the Minister of the Environment, the emptying of the reservoirs was “a phenomenon that was not meteorological”, but was due to “actions by certain companies” and the CHMS. “It altered the course of our rivers, since the abrupt emptying of 70 percent means that conditions will never be optimal from the point of view of fish (in reference to fish) or natural heritage,” explained Vázquez. The conselleira stressed that the emptying occurred at “an atypical moment”, when in summer the light reached «an exacerbated price. There was no condition that favored, “he continued, that neither the CHMS nor the electricity companies did it, except “the economic one.”
In addition, he disfigured the institution led by Quiroga that he tried “by all means to say that he had nothing to do with it”, while criticizing that “it was never well known” what happened to that file he had opened. “The conclusion is that they went hand in hand with the companies and no type of file was opened,” Vazquez added. The president of the basin alleges, however, that “There was nothing the CHMS could do to prevent the drop in water level.” The emptying of the dams “is not subject to authorization or concession”, so “it is not necessary to process any concession or authorization file and, therefore, it is not necessary to request any report from the regional Administration,” he stressed. He also recalled that precisely for this reason the legislation was changed “to set a minimum and maximum regime of average monthly flows, a regime of minimum volumes of dammed reserves for each month, as well as a minimum monthly reserve.”
The Xunta does not close the door to economic sanctions being higher in the future. At the moment, the environmental technicians have only verified the impact on fishing conditions, but they remain vigilant in case there is any “serious impact” on the fauna and flora, an issue, said Vázquez, that must be analyzed in a time ” dragged on”. If these damages are confirmed in the future, the fines could go up to two million euros.