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The energy regulators for France and Spain announced last week that they had rejected the controversial Franco-Spanish South Transit East Pyrenees (STEP) natural gas pipeline, the first stage in the larger Midi-Catalonia (MidCat) gas pipeline, citing costs and that it was not necessary.

Fossil Fuels

France & Spain Regulators Reject €3 Billion STEP Gas Pipeline

The energy regulators for France and Spain announced last week that they had rejected the controversial Franco-Spanish South Transit East Pyrenees (STEP) natural gas pipeline, the first stage in the larger Midi-Catalonia (MidCat) gas pipeline, citing costs and that it was not necessary.

The energy regulators for France and Spain announced last week that they had rejected the controversial Franco-Spanish South Transit East Pyrenees (STEP) natural gas pipeline, the first stage in the larger Midi-Catalonia (MidCat) gas pipeline, citing costs and that it was not necessary.

Baretous Valley and Piedmont plain, in the French western Pyrénées
Image Credit: Nicolas Guionnet

The highly controversial €3 billion Midi-Catalonia natural gas pipeline has been making the rounds since 2005 when French natural gas carrier Teréga and Spanish energy company Enagás first raised the idea. Set to more than double the amount of natural gas that could be transported across the Pyrenees mountains, MidCat has also long been backed by the European Union, which saw it as an opportunity to reduce the region’s dependence on Russian natural gas.

It has been a pet project of EU Climate Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete and added to the EU’s list of Projects of Common Interest. However, in April of 2018, an official cost-benefit study found that the MidCat pipeline would not be economically viable under most scenarios.

Announced on Tuesday, French Energy Regulatory Commission (CRE) and the National Commission on Markets and Competition (CNMC) jointly rejected the South Transit East Pyrenees (STEP) phase of the larger MidCat project which would have created an additional 180 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of capacity per day from France to Spain, and 230 GWh per day from Spain to France. Currently, according to CRE, capacity between France and Spain stands at 225 GWh per day.

Specifically, the two regulators said that the €442 million ($502 million) STEP project “does not respond to market needs and is not mature enough to be eligible for a decision by regulators” and that it was also too costly.

Both the MidCat and STEP projects have been highly controversial, and therefore it is of little surprise that STEP’s rejection has been warmly welcomed by protestors.

“This dramatic red card to the MidCat gas pipeline marks a major victory in the fight to stop new climate-wrecking fossil gas projects,” said Antoine Simon, fossil free campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe. “Activists, NGOs and local communities have been fighting this useless project for years, knowing it’s bad for taxpayers, consumers, local people, and the climate – and today they’ve been proved right.”

“All across Europe, we are building a future free of fossil fuels,” added Clemence Dubois, campaigner at 350.org. “Together we are making it harder and harder for dirty energy companies to build their pipelines and impose a destructive and outdated model of business. Today we have won an important victory because we have prevented the construction of a major piece of infrastructure that is totally incompatible with a liveable climate.”

 

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