EU heads of state gathering today and tomorrow will discuss the European Energy Security Strategy promoting a number of massive infrastructure projects which include gas pipelines, LNG terminals and storage facilities even though their overall environmental impact has not been adequately assessed. Environmentalists are currently battling the European Commission over this issue in Court.
The European Council is expected to give its green light to the European Commission for further work on defining the key security of supply infrastructure projects. However, a mandatory Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) is lacking for the entire PCI list . The list consists of 248 different projects across Europe where the key security of supply projects have been selected from.
The decision of the EU Council will have far-reaching consequences as those projects and thus their promoters will benefit from preferential access to the EU backed sources of financing such as loans from the European Investment Bank and EU grants of the Connecting Europe Facility.
Additionally, as of the 1st of July the Commission encourages member states to provide state aid to these projects . This would allow non-economical projects to benefit from national level state aid to cover up to 100% of the funding gap, next to EUR 5.85 billion already allocated from the EU budget.
Earlier this year the NGO Justice and Environment has taken the European Commission to court for not properly involving civil society in the selection process of priority energy projects and not assessing their full impact on environment . The case is still ongoing.
"EU governments should request a more thorough analysis from the Commission – including a proper stakeholder dialogue - of the environmental and climate impacts of the energy infrastructure before they decide on granting them a special status", commented Birgit Schmidhuber from Justice and Environment.
One of the projects that could profit from a Council decision is Trans-Adriatic Gas Pipeline (TAP) bringing Azeri Gas to Italy. "The result will be that communities who live along the track of the pipeline are totally excluded from the process while they will be the first victims of the environmental impact of this project", says Elena Gerebizza from Re:Common in Italy.
Counter Balance and CEE Bankwatch Network have been warning about the danger of overreliance on gas in shaping the EU's energy future . "More gas infrastructure is not only unnecessary according to the European Commission's own projection but also undermines decarbonisation objectives we cannot sacrifice on the altar of free market theory ," says Kuba Gogolewski from CEE Bankwatch Network.