Reference: SG/E/2013/12
Received Date: 03 December 2013
Subject: Castor Underground Gas Storage
Complainant: Plataforma Ciutadana en Defensa de les Terres del Sènia
Allegations: Alleged failure to assess the environmental and social impacts during the project appraisal and monitoring
Type: E - Environmental and social impacts of financed projects
Outcome*: Areas for improvement
Recommendations: yes
Admissibility*
Assessment*
Investigation*
Mediation*
Consultation*
Closed*
4/12/2013
4/05/2015
30/08/2016
26/02/2018
23/03/2018

* Admissibility date reflects the date the case was officially registered. All other dates pertain to the date in which a stage was completed.

Case Description

Complaint

On 3 December 2013, the EIB Complaints Mechanism (EIB-CM) received a complaint from the Plataforma Ciutadana en Defensa de les Terres del Sènia.

The allegations relate to the environmental and social impacts of the project as well as the way the public consultation was carried out. 

The complainant was also concerned about the risks associated with the induced seismicity of the project as well as other industrial risks.

 

EIB-CM action

As part of the initial assessment, the EIB-CM met the EC and the EP Petitions Committee in Brussels in June 2014 and undertook a Fact-Finding and Stakeholder Engagement mission to Spain to meet with the Complainants and the promoter in September 2014.

Based on the information gathered, the EIB-CM prepared an Initial Assessment Report (IAR) that included a proposed “way forward”, which was circulated in May 2015. Given the complexity and large number of allegations, and in line with § 5.6.3. of the EIB-CM’s Operating Procedures, the EIB-CM engaged external expertise to support the EIB-CM with the analysis of the allegations.


Conclusions and Recommendations

Overall, it can be concluded that the Bank appraised the project following its procedures based on the assumption that the Member State has correctly transposed and enforced the relevant EU Directives. In this regard, the EIB-CM analysis concludes that all allegations except the absence of documentation of the internal analysis of some impacts are unfounded.

The operation of the project has been put under hibernation. The Bank’s funding has been repaid and the Bank is no longer involved. The EIB-CM will close this case with this report. However, as this investigation shows, there are important lessons to be drawn by the Bank.

The EIB-CM would like to draw the Bank’s management attention with a view to consider the following areas for improvement during the appraisal and monitoring of a project:

1.    In cases where (i) an event has a low probability of occurring but may result in project failure and/or have a high negative impact on the environment, human health and/or well-being or, (ii) there is not sufficient certainty to conclude otherwise, the Bank  should continue to allocate appropriate resources to conduct an in-depth and documented risk assessment, which may result in specific conditions and/or other requirements.

2.    In a multiphase approval project, the Bank’s services should ensure that in the appraisal and monitoring of the project, opinions are provided and documented at the different decision points. This should include all results of project risk evaluations including results of court cases and related risk/impact analysis;

3.    The Bank should establish an appropriate guidance to be used when carrying out the assessment of the meaningfulness of the public consultation process. This guidance should be based on the implementation and best practices including those of the relevant Aarhus Convention bodies (e.g. Maastricht Recommendations on Public Participation in Decision-making, Guidance on the implementation of the Aarhus Convention, decisions of the Meeting of the parties and findings of the ACCC);

4.    Whilst assuming the prevailing legal framework in projects in the EU, the Bank’s services should strengthen awareness of instances when an enhanced due diligence may be required;

5.    The Bank’s services should verify that the concerns and risks flagged as part of the Stakeholder Engagement process are adequately assessed and addressed, as relevant, by the promoter. The Bank’s services should also adequately document the outcome of their analysis and the appropriate action that needs to be taken for an informed decision making process.

In addition, the Bank’s services have confirmed during the course of this investigation that the Bank has taken measures, for special cases and according to a risk-based approach, to engage specialist geophysical consultants at appraisal stage.

The EIB-CM encourages the Bank’s services to bring an outline with concrete actions in relation to the areas for improvement to the attention of the Management Committee.