The Department of Agriculture has confirmed to Shannonside FM that it is examining if there has been any breach of conditions of tree felling at Rawdon Estate in County Longford.

An environmental group alleges a suppressed report from the National Parks and Wildlife service states that oak trees, some up to 80 years of age were felled last year, which was in contravention of the license granted for the cutting of trees in the area.

Friends of the Irish Environment allege that further tree felling took place at the same estate this Spring in contravention of the three licenses granted in 2014.

The matter was raised in the Dail last week and the Minister for Arts, Heather Humphreys, explained that it would be the forestry service which would determine if any action needs to be taken over any breaches of the license.

 

Tony Lowes, of the Environmental group, told Shannonside FM they while they welcome the response from the Department of Agriculture, they cannot understand how a report into serious allegations was not passed to the relevant authorities.

Wednesday, November 16th, 2016 at 3:30 pm.

PRESS RELEASE

FRIENDS OF THE IRISH ENVIRONMENT

14 November, 2016

 

Lost Parliamentary Question reveals prohibited felling in ancient woodland

 

Oak trees between 60 and 80 years old ‘with the occasional older tree’ were felled at an estate in County Longford in 2015 in spite of a specific condition in the felling licence protecting the trees.

 

The information was contained in a Report prepared by the Parks and Wildlife Service to inform a reply to a written Parliamentary Question tabled on 1 December, 2015. The question, by then Longford/Westmeath TD James Bannon, FG, asked Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht ‘the action she will take to save the oak woodlands (details supplied) in County Longford; and if she will make a statement on the matter.’ The Minister replied that ‘My Department is investigating this matter and I will write to the Deputy when I have received a report.’

 

The license, issued in 2014, was restricted to ‘firewood’. It identified approximately 30 mature oaks which were to be ‘left standing’, stating: ‘These trees are estimated to be approximately 70 years old and have developed well. The soils in this area are clearly capable of carrying deciduous trees. Replant area with native trees. Leave all Oak, Holly, and Rowan standing”.

 

The Report, dated 2 December 2015, confirmed the recent felling of the Oaks: “Most Oak trees selected were between 60-80 years old, with the occasional older tree”. The Deputy never received a reply.

 

The Report emerged during an investigation by Friends of the Irish Environment into felling at the Estate during the closed season for breeding birds this spring.

 

‘Further felling of mature sequoias – California redwoods – took place in May of this year in spite of specific assurances from the contractor to the Forest Service that these noble trees would ‘not be felled’, according to records released to Friends of the Irish Environment. FIE has posted pictures of both the felled oaks and the felled redwoods on their FaceBook page and website.

 

The Minister for Arts Heritage and the Gaelteacta, Heather Humphries responded to parliamentary questions last Thursday November 10, stating that ‘it is a matter for the Forest Service to determine if there were any breaches of licence conditions and, if so, whether any action needs to be taken in relation to such breaches under the provisions of the Forestry Acts.’

 

According to FIE Director Tony Lowes, who has written about the case in the current issue of the ‘Village’ magazine, the files ‘scream systems failure. The Minister’s officials failed to provide the Report to the Deputy for his constituents and failed to contact the Minister for Agriculture, whose Forest Service is the relevant licensing authority.’

 

The Minister for Agriculture has failed to date to answer questions about the felling submitted by Deputy Clare Daly at the same time, Mr. Lowes said.

===============================================================

Further Information: Tony Lowes 353 (0)27 74771 / 353 (0)87 2176316

 

EDITORS NOTES

 

Photographs of sequoia felled

http://www.friendsoftheirishenvironment.org/images/Castleforbes/castleforbes_sequoia.pdf

 

Minister Heather Humphries Parliamentary Reply 10 November 2016

[Includes questions unanswered  to date for the Minister for Agriculture]

http://www.friendsoftheirishenvironment.org/library/17393-parliamentary-questions-castleforbes-arts-heritage-and-the-gaelteacta

 

The Village Magazine: ‘Castleforboding’, November 2016

http://www.friendsoftheirishenvironment.org/images/pdf/castleforboding-village-nov-2016.pdf

 

May 2016 FIE PR on Felling During Bird Breeding Season at Castleforbes

http://www.friendsoftheirishenvironment.org/press-releases/17361-death-of-birds-decried-department-double-standards

 

 

System failures

Failure of Minister for AHG and her National Parks and Wildlife Service 

to undertake a survey required as a condition of a felling licence

to return to the Forest Service a proposed felling licence in a protected area without ensuring prohibition on felling during the breeding season

to act on Report provided in response to Parliamentary Question revealing felling of protected oaks

to liaise with Forest Service when aware of felling of trees protected in the licence conditions

 

Failure of Minister for Agriculture’s Forest Service

To ensure compliance with conditions protecting specific trees in a licence

To provide NPWS with a copy of a licence for comment

To ensure compliance with undertakings by a licence holder to protect specific trees

 

Failure of the State

To provide the Minister AHG the legal means to ensure implementation of the protection required under the Habitats Directive

To provide the Minister AHG the resources to carry out surveys as required under Forestry Licences

 

 

The confirmation by the courts that the Edenderry Power plant permission should have considered the indirect impacts of the extraction of 1.2 million tons of peat a year vindicated environmentalists’ legal challenges to the continued operation of the plant.

The challenges to the permission to extend the life of the plant beyond 2016, taken in 2014, resulted in the final quashing of the permission last week by Justice Michael White. A stay on the order, which requires the decommissioning of the plant, has been granted by the Courts until April 2017 in order that a ‘fall back’ application for its continuance may be considered by An Bord Pleanala.

However, while admitting An Taisce’s case that indirect effects of the extraction of the fuel should have been considered as part of the environmental impact assessment [EIA] required by law, he ruled against FIE who brought a parallel case over the failure to consider the impacts through Appropriate Assessment [AA] under the Habitats Directive.

The argument advanced by An Bord Pleanala to grant permission without an AA was that the burden of proof rested on FIE to show the potential impacts the extraction of this peat would have on areas protected by the Habitats Directive. Justice White upheld this view. But this is the basis of Irish criminal law [‘incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negative’ - the burden of proof rests on the accuser, not on the defence].

The requirement under European law is that the competent authority (An Bord Pleanala in this case) must itself rule out any potential impacts on the best available scientific evidence. This test is detailed in Article 6 of the Habitats Directive and in numerous European Court of Justice rulings.

In order to discharge the onus of proof, best scientific advice is the only advice that can overturn the presumption against Development that arises on Sites that are subject to the Habitats Directive.

In fact Bord na Mona’s [the national agency for peat extraction and power] ‘fall back application’ to the planning authorities does consider the impacts of peat extraction under both the EIA and AA regimes in the knowledge that they were likely to be required to do so by our challenges.

And yet FIE will be obliged to seek leave to appeal the Court’s ruling or seek to have the matter referred to the European Court for advice for an issue that is as plain as nose on the Honourable Justice’s face. We lost our case because we failed to prove adverse impact when the law does not require us to do so. [Our attempt to do this in the course of the case was ruled inadmissible by Justice White since only matters that were available to the Appeals Board at the time could be considered!)

FIE was one of a group of Irish environmentalists who took a petition in 2000 to the European Parliament opposing the construction of these new power plants in Ireland. Now, 15 years later, in spite of all our efforts, we are being told we must wait another 15 years – until 2030 – before the closure of these plants.

See FIE’s other work, including satellite and aerial surveys of sites of hundreds of hectares of unauthorised industrial extraction from raised bogs’ Have a look at our other legal and administrative challenges – including dramatic photographs - which have led to soon to be announced Government proposals to exempt large scale  peat extraction from planning controls, now that we have proved they planning permission is required. Be careful what you ask for.

 ENDS

Contact: Tony Lowes 353 (0)27 74771 / 353 (0) 87 2176316

FIE Edenderry AA Judgment

FIE High Court Edenderry Judgement 14th October 2016

Background Information

Peat Slide Show

SAC Aerial Survey

National Study - Satellite Survey

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland has unanimously rejected a complaint by Friends of the Irish Environment against RTE’s Prime Time for failing to show the presence of the Minister for Finance at the red carpet greeting at Shannon Airport for Donald Trump in 2014.

 

In the complaint, lodged against the programme about the developer’s proposed sea wall at Doonbeg County Clare aired on Prime Time on 31 March, 2016, FIE said Prime Time concealed from its audience the relationship between the Minister for Finance and one of the world's wealthiest businessmen.

 

FIE held that by excising the Minister for Finance from the greeting, Prime Time undermined the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland’s [BAI] Code of Program Standards principle of public interest “that animates broadcasting and serves a democratic society”. 

 

The Minister for Finance also met with Trump’s son and daughter, Directors of the Doonbeg Trump International Resort, at the airport. Shannon Airport has refused to release any photographs of the event.

 

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland concluded on 13 October 2016 that ‘nothing was omitted from the report which had a bearing on the debate on the planning proposals for the links and hotel.’

 

Trump was served with a Warning Notice by Clare County Council only three months before this event for his unauthorised attempt to build the sea wall.

 

‘While noting that the footage did not include any images depicting the greeting of Mr. Trump by the Minister for Finance, Mr. Michael Noonan, TD,’ BAI wrote, ‘it was the Committee’s view that the exclusion did not raise issues containing to fairness, objectivity or impartiality in news and current affairs or the public interest.’

 

‘Broadcasters as independent media organisations have appropriate freedom to decide the editorial approach to be taken to a subject matter’, they wrote. ‘While noting that the greeting of Mr. Trump by the Minister for Finance in 2014 was a matter of controversy, the focus of the programme broadcast in 2016 was the potential impact of the proposed sea wall and not the relationship between Irish business, the Irish State, and foreign investment. In that context, it is the Committee’s view that the exclusion of footage of Minister Noonan meeting Mr. Trump did not give rise to any issues provided for in BAI’s codes or the Broadcasting Act.’

 

A statement from FIE said: ‘Whether it was correct or not for the Minister to meet with a developer who had been served a Warning Letter by the local authority and was in legal correspondence with them is a matter for debate.’

 

‘But what is indisputable is that the public has the right to know when Ministers meet with developers. The BAI Code speaks of the “genuine interests of citizens and others who live in this state; their capacity fully to understand the way in which public life is conducted; and their entitlement to the fullest range of information to assist them in their choices and decisions they will make in their lives and the in the conduct of our democracy.”

 

‘RTE in fact denied us our entitlement to the fullest range of information about the conduct of our democracy and deliberately undermined the public’s ability to fully understand the way in which public life is being conducted in Ireland.’

 

ENDS

 

Verification: Tony Lowes 353 (0)27 74771   / 353 (0)87 2176316

 

Decision letter

http://www.friendsoftheirishenvironment.org/images/pdf/BAI_Trump_Noonan_full.pdf

 

BAI Complaint Decisions 27 October 2016 [Full History]

http://www.bai.ie/en/download/131337/

 

44,000 people have visited our explanatory video of Trumps proposed wall at Doonbeg over the summer. Why don’t you?

https://www.facebook.com/FriendsOfTheIrishEnvironment/

 

FOR YOUR DIARY

From Tomorrow 1 November

‘Hear The One About Donald Trump Losing a Campaign To a Snail’

http://walkingthe.earth/about/

Walking The Earth is a literary expedition designed to share extraordinary places and people on our planet that are worth protecting and supporting. Each story centers around walking as a human activity that has linked people and places throughout time across the globe around the world.

 

 

 

Photo: Limerick Leader Saturday, May 17, 2014

 

Photo: Sean Curtan

 

 

 

 

An opportunity for the Midlands to go green and to embrace ‘renewables’

Since Bord na Móna was set up in 1933 as the Turf Development Board, many thousands of acres of raised bog in the midlands have been harvested for use as fuel for power stations as well as peat briquettes and garden compost. But that era is coming to an end, hastened by a High Court judgment quashing a decision by An Bord Pleanála to grant planning permission for the peat-fired power station in Edenderry, Co Offaly, to continue in operation until 2023.

Ruling in favour of An Taisce, which had sought a judicial review of the appeals board’s decision, Mr Justice Michael White found that it had “completely excluded consideration of the indirect effects” on the environment of burning up to 1.2 million tonnes of peat per annum, in its deliberations on whether the life of the power plant should be extended.

A stay was placed on the court order until next April, to allow An Bord Pleanála to adjudicate on appeals by An Taisce and Friends of the Irish Environment against a fresh planning application to extend the life of the plant. But whether or not this latest effort succeeds, the writing is on the wall for peat as an indigenous Irish energy resource.

Bord na Móna has announced that it will stop harvesting peat for energy use in 2030 and move towards more environmentally sustainable activities, including solar and wind power. Given that burning turf is even more damaging to the climate than burning other fossil fuels, environmentalists have argued that it should stop even sooner, by 2020, if Ireland is to have any chance of meeting EU short- to medium-term targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The High Court’s decision to overturn planning permission for the continued operation of Bord Na Móna’s Edenderry plant has clear implications for other peat-fired power stations in the midlands, putting much-needed jobs at risk; already, trade have warned that the State-owned company must not seek compulsory redundancies from the 180 staff employed at Edenderry.

 

However, as Green Party leader Eamon Ryan has said, the court ruling “gives us a chance to change tack and to turn away from this most polluting form of power generation for good”. In that context, Bord na Móna should be urgently assessing alternative uses for its 125,000 acres of largely cutaway bog in the midlands. Given that there are few houses in the vicinity, the most obvious prospect is wind energy, with a concentration of turbines and even solar arrays that would be removed from where people live.

 

A Government decision is also needed on the future of the ESB’s coal-fired power station at Moneypoint, on the Shannon Estuary, which is Ireland’s largest single source of carbon dioxide emissions, easily eclipsing Edenderry.

Reprinted from Sat, Oct 31, 2015