Repsol Canary Drilling Plan Reaches Milestone, Stirs Critics

Repsol SA’s $10 billion project to pump oil off Spain’s Canary Islands passed a milestone yesterday when the public comment period ended on its environmental-impact report, drawing criticism from conservationists and residents.

The study next will be reviewed by the Agriculture, Food and Environment Ministry, according to a spokeswoman at the agency who asked not to be identified, citing government policy. She wouldn’t estimate a time frame for a decision. The ministry can impose extra conditions on Madrid-based Repsol to prevent oil spills or protect marine wildlife habitats.

Spain’s biggest oil company is counting on approval so it may begin by late 2014 to explore for reserves it says could equal about 10 percent of national consumption. Repsol sought permission to drill two or three wells at least 50 kilometers (31 miles) from Fuerteventura and Lanzarote, two Canary islands off northern Africa whose economies depend heavily on tourism.

The Spanish unit of environmental advocate WWF said the report, which ran more than 1,000 pages and was compiled by consultant Alenta Medio Ambiente SL, was “plagued with omissions, vagueness and imprecision” that hamper an objective review of the project.

The local government of Lanzarote yesterday delivered a list of arguments against aspects of the project, drawn up with 20 experts and five universities.

“Our environmental report is thorough and complete, complying with the existing legislation and in some aspects going beyond it,” Repsol spokesman Kristian Rix said in an e-mailed response to questions.

Repsol has targeted net capital expenditures of an average 2.9 billion euros ($3.9 billion) a year through 2016, more than double its 2008-2011 level, for exploring and developing new resources.

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