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Spain Expands Its Constitutional Challenge to Allow Fracking

March 21 (Bloomberg) -- Spain’s government will seek to overturn a ban on fracking in the wine-making region of La Rioja, relying in part on the European Union’s January guidelines for the drilling technique.

The cabinet voted today to file a constitutional challenge to La Rioja’s prohibition on the water-intensive method used to explore for oil and gas. The ban wrongly strips authority from the national government to regulate prospecting and runs contrary to Spanish law and preliminary EU rules that endorse fracking, the cabinet said today in a statement.

The decision widens a policy to wrest control from regional governments over fracking. The cabinet this year voted to appeal a similar ban on fracking in Cantabria, a region that like La Rioja is in the north and is relatively rich in water resources.

The move today is a “logical step” given that Spain had previously acted against Cantabria, Juan Klimowitz, co-owner and general manager of exploration consulting firm Gessal in Madrid, said today in an interview. “It makes sense since the regions went outside the national law that covers hydrocarbon exploration.”

The central government began requiring environmental impact assessments on all fracking projects last year before deciding on permits for those that passed. It says allowing environmentally safe prospecting is necessary in a country dependent on oil and gas imports.

Wine has been cultivated for more than 1,000 years in La Rioja, which is home today to more than 500 vineyards including Marques de Riscal SA and Ramon Bilbao SA.

To contact the reporter on this story: Todd White in Madrid at twhite2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Timothy Coulter at tcoulter@bloomberg.net Tony Barrett, Amanda Jordan

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