Spain Alters Environmental Laws To Speed Up Industrial Development

  • Date: 10/12/13
  • Todd White, Bloomberg

Spain changed environmental rules to speed approvals on industrial projects from pig farms to oil rigs and for the first time will regulate shale drilling.

Authorities will have six months to rule on projects based on the potential harm to nature, according to a law published Dec. 5 by parliament that will take effect after appearing in the government’s Official Bulletin. Spanish legislation previously set no clear timeline.

“This is a step in the right direction,” Lars Hubert, exploration manager for shale at San Leon Energy Plc (SLE), said by telephone from Poland. “It should make permitting easier.” The Dublin-based company has four Spanish licenses to prospect for shale rock and six more awaiting approval.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s People’s Party has used its congressional majority and a fast-track process to produce the biggest revamp of environmental-impact laws since 2008. The changes are designed to keep future projects from getting stuck for years in review and clarify developers’ legal liability.

Explorers including BNK Petroleum Inc. of Canada and San Leon have set up Spanish offices to explore for shale resources, which have revolutionized natural-gas production in the U.S. while generating lawsuits over possible water contamination.

“Industrial companies in any sector need security to plan their investments,” Margarita Hernando, general manager of the Aciep trade group for oil and gas exploration, said in an e-mailed response to questions about the new law. “Without this security, investments don’t come, or they go away.”

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