Spain seeks to avoid bill for any closure of Castor gas project
MADRID Oct 10 (Reuters) - Spain said on Thursday it had asked its Supreme Court to cancel a legal clause obliging the state to pick up the bill for any closure of the EU-backed Castor gas storage plant off the eastern coast of Valencia.
The Spanish government has halted activity at the undersea storage facility after more than 200 minor earthquakes were detected near the area. The government has ordered a detailed report on the seismic activity around the plant.
Spain wants the court to cancel a clause in a 2008 Spanish law drawn up to clarify the administrative rights of the Castor facility that says the state would have to compensate owners ACS of Spain and Dundee Energy of Canada if the 1.7 billion euro ($2.3 billion) project had to be wound down.
Spanish Industry Minister Jose Manuel Soria said the clause was clearly against the public interest.
"We will abide by whatever the court says, but we believe (the clause) is clearly damaging to the general interest," Soria said at a parliamentary hearing.
Soria said he did not know when the seismic activity report from the National Geographic Institute would be ready, but said it was possible normal activity could resume at the plant if the study showed there was no danger.
The Castor offshore submarine gas storage facility, meant to store 30 percent of Spain's daily gas consumption, was the first in Europe to issue so-called "project bonds" and is one of the country's biggest investments in its gas system.
The plant stopped injecting gas on Sept. 16.
The facility, which takes gas from the national grid storage and pumps it back into the grid when it is needed, is meant to store 1.3 billion cubic metres of gas.
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