Spain challenges Canary Island poll on oil plans

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

MADRID (AP) — The Spanish government says it will ask the Constitutional Court to block proposals by the Canary Islands regional government to stage a referendum on oil exploration in waters off the popular tourist archipelago.

Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said Friday that energy issues are a matter for the state to decide on, not regional governments.

The Spanish government has licensed energy company Repsol to begin exploration some 60 kilometers (40 miles) off the islands in the coming weeks.

The Canary Islands, located off the northwest coast of Africa, plans a referendum Nov. 23 asking residents if the archipelago should change its environmental and tourism policies for the sake of oil and gas exploration.

If the court agrees to study the challenge the vote will be automatically suspended.