Friday, August 12

Three charges of the Basque Government charged after a complaint about the emissions of the Glefaran plant in Güeñes

The Güeñes Bizia platform has filed a criminal complaint against the former director of Environmental Administration, Iván Pedreira, of the PSE-EE, for having presented in 2019 a favorable report on measurements of emissions of benzopyrene and heavy metals from the Glefaran company, which burns wood chips to generate energy and which in 2016 filled the town with black ash. The collective understands that such measurements were never made and that the conclusions were therefore falsified. They have also incorporated into the complaint their hierarchical superior, the then Deputy Minister of the Environment, the also socialist Elena Moreno, and the former mayor of Güeñes for the PNV, Imanol Zuluaga, although it has nothing to do with the realization of the report since it was the receptor. From the environment of the accused they categorically deny that such irregularities occurred.

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Initially, the three had to have declared as defendants before the Balmaseda court this Wednesday, September 15, but scheduling problems of one of them have postponed the appearances until next week, until Tuesday 21. Güeñes Bizia had prepared a protest at the door of the Palace of Justice that has also had to be postponed. This group has been warning for years of the health risks of the region that Glefaran entails.

It so happens that none of the three continues in the position they were in when the Glefaran crisis occurred, although all of them are currently high-ranking officials in the Basque Government. Moreno, who before being the ‘number two’ of the Environment was director of the Ertzaintza academy in Arkaute, is director of Commerce in the team of the socialist councilor Javier Hurtado. Pedreira, for his part, continues under the orders of Iñaki Arriola, who was the Minister of the Environment in the last legislature, but now as Director of Transportation Planning. Zuluaga left the Mayor’s Office started the second term because he became the chief of staff of the Minister of Health, Gotzone Sagardui, with whom he coincided in an earlier stage in the Department of Employment and Social Policies headed by Juan María Aburto.

So far, only in the case of Zuluaga has there been a statement from the Ethics Commission of the Basque Government, which analyzes all the legal cases opened against senior officials. Following its already consolidated ‘jurisprudence’, this body understands that there is no reason for termination until, where appropriate, the opening of the trial is confirmed after the investigation phase. In addition, it is emphasized that the complaint is caused by a stage prior to its arrival at the Department of Health. Sources from Moreno’s environment indicate that the former vice-counselor reported her procedural situation and that she is awaiting the Ethics Commission. In the case of Pedreira, there were two communications, a first in March 2020 upon receipt of the complaint and a second in July 2021 upon knowing the specific date and that he would have to declare as a defendant, as indicated by his Department. Except for a 180 degree turn, in these two cases the Ethics Commission will also authorize the continuity of both in their respective positions.

Glefaran took over from Pastguren, an industry located in the border area between Zalla and Güeñes. When it started its activity, the neighbors warned that the town “It was filled with ashes, with shit.” In 2018, this newspaper produced a report on the situation and while neighbors warned that the company’s emissions were toxic and even “carcinogenic”, from the Environment area they indicated that it was a “annoying but non-toxic” situation. In these years the mobilizations have continued. Sources from the Güeñes City Council indicate that particle measurements were carried out for months with Environment equipment and admit that in those parts the detailed results on benzopyrenes and heavy metals were not recorded. However, they indicate that these data were collected on time and that they were sent for analysis to a Public Health laboratory capable of interpreting them. That work was done and the results were favorable, always according to these sources.

On the other hand, Güeñes Bizia herself admits that “legal viability is only guaranteed with the signatory” of the report, with Pedreira. However, the senior official was the signatory of the “remission” of the report and not of its contents, indicate the sources consulted. In the case of Zuluaga, “the mayor did not participate in the authorship of the falsehood,” as stated by the platform on their social networks. In any case, they assure that “of course the shamelessness of endorsing it and spreading it should be reproached”, for which they ask for “political responsibility.” There is no assessment on Moreno’s participation. The court, in any case, has demanded a financial bond of 5,000 euros for the possible “damage” to the public image of the accused.