Balearic Islands Lose Environmental Case in Spanish Court

Spain’s Balearic Islands plan to regain control over offshore projects from tourism to oil drilling when the activities are adjacent to protected habitats.

The regional government is revising 14 management plans that were partially annulled last month by the Supreme Court for failing to demonstrate why control over the Mediterranean waters shouldn’t be under the jurisdiction of the national government.

At stake are environmentally sensitive areas of water for which the European Commission has approved extra protections to foster biodiversity of plants and wildlife. Spain’s high court, after an appeal by the national government, invalidated parts of those plans that covered offshore areas of the zones, which are called Sites of Community Importance under European Union law.

The revisions should restore authority to the Balearic Islands’ government, according to a spokesman for its environment ministry who asked not to be named, in line with the department’s policy.

The Supreme Court invalidated the safeguards for waters off Mallorca, Menorca and smaller islands in the area in a Feb. 20 ruling published subsequently on the judiciary’s website.

The Balearics, particularly Mallorca and Ibiza, are popular with tourists to Spain. While the court ruling didn’t specifically address oil exploration, the islands’ waters have drawn interest from prospectors seeking licenses for seismic studies. Exploration is opposed by the regional government and has been supported by Spain’s national government.

Companies that have explored the Spanish Mediterranean or have permits to do so include Repsol SA, Cairn Energy Plc and Spectrum Geo Ltd. Most of their searches are focused instead on the waters off the mainland peninsula.

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