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Environmental issues at the biomass plant in Monzón (Huesca, Spain)

Background information

Generic information about the conflict

The company Forestalia plans since 2015 the construction of a 50 megawatt biomass electric power generation plant. The plant will be located 600 meters from the municipality of Monzón, in the Aragonese province of Huesca (Spain).

Conflict type: Explanations on the conflict type

It is a conflict of an environmental nature since the plant is very close to the urban area of Monzón. This location could affect the residents of the municipality due to the emission of combustion gases (SO2, NOx and CO). In addition, the spill evacuation line could affect a Site of Community Interest (SCI) of the region.

Resources involved

The resources involved in the generation of energy would be about 7,000 hectares of energy crops within a radius of 60 km around the biomass plant. The main biofuel will be poplar (50%) and additionally eucalyptus (30%) and Arundo donax (20%).

Evaluation of the conflict

Main Issues and descriptions

The conflict begins after the positive Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the plant. The EIS recognized a severe impact on air quality due to the emission of combustion gases (SO2, NOx and CO), particles from the boiler and emission of gases from truck traffic. Therefore, a study on the dispersion of pollutants to the atmosphere was carried out, where the result was that the air quality limits established in the legislation will not be exceeded. The study, together with preventive and corrective measures, resulted in a final impact on compatible air quality.

In addition, the plant had a discharge evacuation line that would affect a Site of Community Interest (SCI) in the region. The EIS itself required to include in the project the necessary preventive and corrective measures so that the affection on the Rios Cinca and Alcanadre SCI was not significant.

Main stakeholders involved 

The most interesting stakeholders would be:

  • Forestalia and Solmasol (company and sub-company of bioenergy)
  • Government of Aragón
  • Monzón City Council
  • Aragonese Institute of Environmental Management
  • Ecologists in Action of Huesca
  • Platform against the Biomass Incinerator of Monzón (neighbors of the municipality)

Analysis of the stakeholders values and interests

From the positive EIS, Ecologists in action and the Platform against the incinerator were imposed against the construction of the plant due to the possible air pollution that involves the burning of biofuels taking into account the proximity to the municipality of Monzón.

Forestalia, on the other hand, conducted a study on the dispersion of pollutants into the atmosphere. The result motivated the inclusion in the project of the preventive and corrective measures necessary for the plant to operate in a manner compatible with the environment.

Evaluation of the intensity of the conflict 

The location of the biomass plant would be 600 meters from the municipality, so the neighbors and environmental groups began a campaign to paralyze the construction and protect the municipality from the polluting gases that the plant could generate.

The conflict came to court when Ecologists in Action and the Platform against the Biomass Incinerator filed a lawsuit against the construction of the biomass plant.

His admitted to proceedings in the court because the complaint generated significant doubts and uncertainties. After reviewing the documentation and explanations provided by Forestalia and the Aragon Institute of Environmental Management, it was concluded that the incriminated facts did not constitute any crime.

Despite the results obtained in the courts, Ecologists in Action and the Platform against the Incinerator continue their efforts to protect the municipality from possible contamination that may generate the plant and will appeal to the Provincial Court of Huesca.

Evaluation of the possible causes of the conflict 

The main cause of the conflict is the location of the biomass plant. The proximity to the town of Monzón has triggered protests by the residents of the municipality and numerous political groups. These protests have not been taken seriously enough due to environmental legislation, which does not indicate any minimum distance in the location of these types of plants.

Therefore, both in this case and in many others, poor environmental regulation is the cause of conflicts that in many cases paralyze the creation of biomass plants and slow down the growth of clean energy in Spain.

Main elements that may preclude conflict resolution

Many times, the lack of public interest until the last moment is what most aggravates the conflict. In this case, many of the complaints of Ecologists in action were filed later in the trial or with minimal notice, facts that slow down the resolution of conflicts.

On the other hand, the same interest, sometimes driven by misinformation, does not allow companies to comply with the legislation and carry out the appropriate preventive and corrective measures.

Main elements that may encourage conflict escalation

Transparency is a key element in the resolution of conflicts of an environmental nature. Allowing all interested parties to be duly informed and have the option of public participation will act in favor of the greater good and avoid the growth of conflicts.

In environmental matters it is important to have a common goal of care and conservation of the environment on a local and global scale. Sustainability as a final objective must be key in the resolution of conflicts.

References

Rico, Javier (2015): El Gobierno de Aragón autoriza una planta de biomasa de 50 MW en Monzón. Available at: https://www.energias-renovables.com/biomasa/el-gobierno-de-aragon-autoriza-una-planta-20150903 

Rico, Javier (2016): La planta de biomasa de Monzón salva un escollo judicial. Avaliable at: https://www.energias-renovables.com/biomasa/la-planta-de-biomasa-de-monzon-salva-20160720 

Rico, Javier (2016): La planta de biomasa de Monzón producirá diez veces más energía de la consumida. Available at: https://www.energias-renovables.com/biomasa/la-planta-de-biomasa-de-monzon-producira-20160410

Rico, Javier (2017): La planta de biomasa de Forestalia en Monzón sigue adelante con condiciones. Available at: https://www.energias-renovables.com/biomasa/la-planta-de-biomasa-de-forestalia-en-20170220

Rico, Javier (2017): Inaga sobre la planta de Forestalia en Huesca: “No habrá ninguna afección a la salud pública”. Available at: https://www.energias-renovables.com/biomasa/inaga-sobre-la-planta-de-forestalia-en-20171013