Sunday, July 3

The Government has opened a file with ACS for “defects” in the Castor but does not clarify how much it claims

The Government has open a “liability claim procedure” to Escal UGS, the ACS subsidiary that built the failed Castor gas warehouse, for possible “vices or defects” in its construction. In a recent parliamentary response, it indicates that the procedure “is currently pending.” The Ministry for Ecological Transition indicates that the file will be “retaken” with the dismantling of the facilities, without clarifying the amounts claimed so far from the concessionaire.

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The claim file was opened by resolution of July 6, 2016 of the General Directorate of Energy Policy and Mines of the ministry. A procedure “that is currently being processed after hearing the parties involved and that we hope to resume now that the dismantling of the facilities associated with storage is underway,” according to Transición Ecológica.

In its written response, the Executive recalls that in May 2013, the then Ministry of Industry commissioned an economic technical audit to “verify” the net investment for putting the storage into operation, the 1,350 million with which Escal was compensated in 2014 “In this audit, in relation to the technical part and in summary form, it was concluded that the design and construction of the facilities were reasonable and were built according to a high quality standard.”

“Without prejudice to the foregoing”, the Executive recalls that the decree by which the facility was hibernated and ACS was compensated allowed to demand liability for “vices or defects in their execution that the facilities may present and are revealed within the ten following years ”or for the“ actions and omissions that, as the holder of the concession, it has carried out during its validity period ”and until its delivery to Enagás.

The calculation of eventual claims, recalls Transición Ecológica, is based on a report commissioned from Enagás when it took over the administration of Castor. “Any income obtained as a result of this claim will go to the gas system,” recalls the Ministry. “It is an ongoing procedure, so we cannot give details of the amount until it is resolved,” he adds.

In its 2016 accounts, Escal UGS explained that at the end of that year 3.6 million were claimed for this file, a ridiculous figure compared to the multimillion-dollar compensation that the concessionaire received. It did not include references to this procedure in the accounts it subsequently submitted. The latest available are from 2018. Escal filed for bankruptcy in September 2019.

A month later, the Government approved ending the storage hibernation and beginning its dismantling with the sealing and definitive abandonment of the wells. The procedure had to be suspended due to the health crisis and was resumed last summer with the beginning of the processing of the environmental impact assessment. Last week, the Senator of Compromís Carles Mulet denounced that each day without dismantling the silo represents a cost of 45,600 euros.

The controversial compensation to ACS was annulled by the Constitutional Court in 2017, which did not find the express formula of the Royal Decree-Law used by the Government of Mariano Rajoy in accordance with the law, which led to the National Markets Commission in early 2018 and the Competition (CNMC) suspended payments to the three banks (Santander, Caixabank and Bankia) that advanced those 1,350 million to collect them with interest for 30 years through the gas bill.

The Supreme Court recognized in October the right of these entities to be compensated by the State and the Council of Ministers approved last Christmas to charge it to public debt through a Royal Decree-Law that was validated by Congress in January.

“Will or negligence”

The payment of this compensation was based on the Royal Decree by which the Government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero awarded Escal UGS the exploitation concession in 2008, which included a clause that indicated that in the event of termination of the concession, the awardee would have the right to receive compensation for “the residual value of the facilities”, even in the event of “fraud or negligence attributable to the company”.

In parallel to this claim, the trial for the earthquakes caused by the injection of gas in the warehouse is scheduled to begin at the end of this year at the Castellón Provincial Court. On the dock of the accused will sit the two main leaders of Escal UGS, Recaredo del Potro and José Luis Martínez Dalmau, and the company itself. The Prosecutor’s Office asks for each of them six years in prison for a crime against the environment, a request that the popular accusation of the Arca Ibérica Association raises to seven years.