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Electrical Highway Sama - Velilla, Spain


The project of building a high-voltage power line between the towns of Langreo (Asturias) and Velilla del Río Carrión (Palencia) through the Cantabrian Mountains is known as the electrical highway Sama-Velilla. This project aims to build a double circuit of 400 KV power stations connecting Lada and Velilla, which means running for almost 124 miles through a total of 19 municipalities. The project would cross protected areas, the habitats of endangered species such as the brown bear and the Cantabrian capercaillie. Proponents of the project appeal to the need to export the excess energy out of Asturias. For the coming years it seems that various current electricity generation projects will have excess capacity and according to the proponents, the two existing lines are insufficient.

However, since the proposal of the project in 2007, opposition has increasingly been growing from citizens, social movements, town councils, environmental groups and political parties. Thus, all the municipalities affected by the electric highway have expressed their rejection of it. Opponents claim the line will deface some the only remaining pristine valleys in the region and they also claim that the impacts of the electro-magnetic radiation from the line are uncertain but that it could be damaging to human and animal health. On the opposite side, the Asturian government, together with the Ministry of Industry and the company promoting the project, Red Eléctrica de España, are defending the construction of the high power lines.

Among the many actions taken by the opponents there are several demonstrations in both Asturias and León, the appearance before the European Commission and the submission of 27,000 claims against the project. These were rejected by REE and the opponents replied by starting a legal process. In february 2008, the platform against the sama-velilla electrical highway joined other groups in Spain struggling with the same sorts of projects (Valencia and Cataluña), to coordinate efforts against high power lines.

Currenly, the project is frozen mainly due to the Spanish economic crisis and lack of investment. The current right-wing government has announced that the project is not urgent and wont be executed before 2016.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Electrical Highway Sama - Velilla, Spain
State or province:Asturias, León, Palencia
Location of conflict:From Sama de Lagreo to Velilla
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Industrial and Utilities conflicts
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Other
Specific commodities:Electricity

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Affected municipalities: Langreo (Asturias), San Martín del Rey Aurelio (Asturias), Laviana (Asturias), Aller, (Asturias), Cebanico (León), Cistierna (León), La Ercina (León), La Pola de Gordón (León), La Robla (León), La Vecilla (León), Matallana de Torío (León), Prado de la Guzpeña (León), Santa Colomba de Curueño (León), Valderrueda (León), Vegacervera (León), Vegaquemada (León), Villamanín (León), Guardo (Palencia), Velilla del Río Carrión (Palencia).

Tensión nominal: 400 kV.

Número de circuitos: Uno.

Número de conductores por fase: Dos.

Tipo de conductor: Dúplex Rail.

Cable de tierra: Dos cables compuestos de tipo Tierra- óptico.

Tipo de apoyos: Torres metálicas de celosía.

Cimentaciones: De patas separadas de hormigón en masa.

Puesta a tierra: Anillos de varilla de acero descarburado.

Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:2007
Company names or state enterprises:Red Eléctrica Española (REE) from Spain
Relevant government actors:Asturias Regional government, Castilla y León Regional government, Ministry of Industry, All the affected Town councils
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Plataforma «No a la Sama Velilla», Plataforma en Defensa de la Coordillera Cantábrica, Unión de Concejos para la Defensa y Desarrollo de la Montaña Central Leones, Experts from León University, Fundación Oso Pardo

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
- autonomous activists
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches


Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Other Health impactselectromagnetic emissions are a concern
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of landscape/sense of place


Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Institutional changes
Technical solutions to improve resource supply/quality/distribution
Withdrawal of company/investment
Project temporarily suspended
Some of the people claim to have a different route for the high power lines. This is also used as a strategy to earn time.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:Currently the project is frozen due to the economic crisis. The Spanish government says it is not urgent.

Sources & Materials

Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

REAL DECRETO 223/2008, de 15 de febrero, por el que se aprueban el Reglamento sobre condiciones técnicas y garantías de seguridad en líneas eléctricas de alta tensión y sus instrucciones técnicas complementarias:

Ley 21/2013, de 9 de diciembre, de evaluación ambiental:

Ley 54/1997, de 27 de noviembre, del Sector Eléctrico:

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

- Julio Lago, an economist from Leon University points out 10 main reasons about the unneccesity of the project:

Newspaper article: Vivas, J. (12/01/2014). Las plataformas contra Sama-Velilla reavivan en Europa la oposición a la línea. La Nueva España:

Newspaper article: Romero, M (17/05/2010). Dos millones de ciudadanos luchan en España contra tendidos de alta tensión. Diario de León:

Newspaper article: García, J. A. (25/01/2013). El Gobierno aplaza la ejecución de la línea de alta tensión Sama-Velilla. El Comercio:

Web with lots of information:

Wikipedia: Polémica en torno a la línea de alta tensión Sama-Velilla: émica_en_torno_a_la_línea_de_alta_tensión_Sama-Velilla

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Part 2:

Part 1:

Part 3:

TV program: El escarabajo verde. Short Documentary about the Sama Velilla Conflict:

Meta information

Contributor:Amaranta Herrero
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:83