The Spanish government plans to ask the courts to block proposals by the Canary Islands regional government to stage a referendum on oil exploration in waters off the popular tourist destination.
Deputy prime minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said that energy issues are a matter for the state to decide on, not regional governments.
The Spanish government has given permission to energy company Repsol to begin exploration some 40 miles off the islands in the coming weeks.
The Canary Islands, located off the north-west coast of Africa, plan a referendum on November 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.