The Midcat is a projected gas pipeline that would link the Spanish and the French natural gas systems through the regions of Catalonia and Midi Pyrénées. The first 87 km stretch of the gas pipeline (from Martorell to Hostalric) was carried out in 2012, but the project was then set in stand-by due to a lack of interest from the French government. The construction of the first part of the Midcat pipeline was highly controversial back in 2012 due to severe environmental and social impacts in the areas involved. Moreover, the company Enagas was accused of a lack of rigor when planning, executing and managing the project. Nowadays, there are plans of resuming the project in 2019, although there is still uncertainty about the exact date. A new movement of resistance in the province of Girona is mobilizing to oppose the 2nd phase of the project.
Local impacts caused by the construction of the first phase of the Midcat gas pipeline are diverse and profound. Environmental problems are the most visible and appear in many different forms. The Midcat gas pipeline layout crosses through many spaces of high ecological value such as protected forests, rivers, creeks and agricultural lands. Some of those natural spaces are deeply connected to the culture of the area, such as the “Bosc de Can Déu” or the “Torrent de Colobrers”. Considering that the construction of the pipeline involved the total cut out of a 30 meters band, the natural (and cultural) destruction is significant. Moreover, leakage of natural gas is a common issue in underground pipelines. Depending of the extent of the leakages groundwater and surface land could be polluted, and thus there would be direct impacts on sources of livelihood in the area.
People involved in the opposition in the first phase of the Midcat mainly regret about the opacity and the lack of democracy in the project, but also about the irregular practices of Enagas. The construction of the gas pipeline in this first stretch did not follow the guidelines that were made available in the public project, being much more harmful for the environment, while the authorities turned a blind eye on the issue.
As the European Commission has clearly stated, the aim of the project is reducing the dependency of the European Union on Russian natural gas by creating a new nexus between the extraction fields of Hassi R’mel in Algeria and the Center-European countries (they are already linked through Italy and the Transmed pipeline). Thus, the local conflict against the construction of the pipeline is linked with latent conflicts in Algeria, more specifically in Hassi R’Mel (https://ejatlas.org/conflict/hassi-rmel-gas-field), and in all the fields where the fracking technique is being used (https://ejatlas.org/conflict/resistance-to-fracking-projects-in-algeria).
Moreover, there are other global potential impacts related with the perpetuation of a fossil fuel-based energetic model, such as climate change.
UPDATE JAN 2019: The Midcat pipeline and its French component have been blocked by French and Spanish energy regulators on grounds of lack of necessity and high cost. The decision marks the possible end of the entire ‘MidCat’ endeavour, leaving stranded other sections of the pipeline that are already built. [2-3]