Mariano Rajoy is not well received in his hometown. At least not institutionally: in February 2016, 17 of the 25 councilors of the municipal plenary session of Pontevedra agreed to appoint him persona non grata. The ultimate reason for the initiative, the extension that his government had granted to the Ence pastera for its facilities on the shore of the estuary. He did it in office and until no less than 2073. That is the decision that the National Court has overthrown in a recent car. But the history of the factory, its location and the city of Pontevedra never finished working.
A massive demonstration asks Ence to leave the Pontevedra estuary on the eve of the Justice deciding on its concession
It was Francisco Franco who inaugurated the factory in Lourizán (Pontevedra) in 1963. Its activity had begun five years earlier, after the pertinent authorization of the then mayor, Xosé Filgueira Valverde. Former militant of the right wing of Galician movement, an intellectual recognized and celebrated for the Día das Letras Galegas 2015, there are those who assure that he regretted that permission. In any case, it was already controversial in its day: the population of the area, whose way of life was directly related to the sea, was opposed from the first moment. It was of little use.
That plant, born in the shelter of the National Institute of Industry (INI) of the dictatorship, became a symbol of the region. But not because of its industrial architecture at the foot of the water or because of the contribution to the development of the place, but, above all, because of the bad smell that its chimneys give off. Reports of emissions or discharges to the estuary occur periodically. In 2002 the company even admitted him to court, when he was convicted of an ecological crime at the Provincial Court of Pontevedra after a process started in 1990. His bad press is such that even the Popular Party even included in its electoral program the promise of your transfer to another location. It was in 2009 and the candidate for the presidency of the Xunta was Alberto Núñez Feijóo. Forgot her, of course.
Still this month of March, its current CEO, Ignacio de Colmenares, warned in an internal meeting with workers and managers of the possibility of “a major environmental scare, which can also affect people” if the Climate Change Law made it difficult to execution of the strategic investment plan of the firm. Just a few weeks later, elDiario.es revealed internal documentation in which Ence notified the Galician Government that it had detected high levels of mercury on its land, originating from the dismantling of an old subsidiary.
Eucalyptus and privatization
Ence’s activity in Lourizán consists of manufacturing bleached paper pulp. It does so from eucalyptus wood and, according to the company itself on its website, it allocates 96% to export to northern Europe. Its food, eucalyptus, is extracted from the forest crops that occupy the Galician territory in a greater proportion than expected by the Xunta’s plans. And the transformation of it into “totally chlorine-free paper pulp” is done on privatized maritime terrestrial space.
The first concession to settle in the public maritime land domain was received by Ence through a ministerial order signed by Franco in June 1958. Its expiration date, 60 years later, 2018. Its privatization began in 1988, under the Government of Felipe González , with the IPO of 39% of its shares. Aznar sped it up in 1996 by declaring it “immediately privatizable” and culminated it in 2001, when it became the control of a consortium made up of Caixa Galicia, Bankínter and Banco Zaragozano. As of 2006, the shareholders were reconfiguring and at present it is its honorary president, José Luis Arregui, who owns the largest part of the capital.
The revolving door of the company has been well oiled at all times. On its Board of Directors sits Isabel Tocino, Minister of the Environment in the chief executive of Aznar, the one who ended up selling the company. And Carlos del Álamo, former councilor for the same matter with Fraga Iribarne, or Pascual Fernández, Secretary of State for Water, also with Aznar have passed through him.
The protest in the streets
BNG, which governs the Council of Pontevedra since 1999, and the Socialist Party are historically opposed to the location of the factory due to its effects on the ecosystem of the place. The protest in the streets is also recurrent. The Asociación pola Defensa da Ría brings together the social opposition to the pastoral complex and has called the last demonstration last Sunday, July 4, under the usual motto of Ence fóra da ría. The attendance was massive. Twelve days later, the Commissions Obreiras section of the company calls to defend the continuity of the plant in the estuary.
800 direct and indirect jobs in Pontevedra, Marín and Poio are those that Ence claims to generate. Union figures for 2015 referred to 270 workers at the factory and 96 at headquarters.