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

The Lodge at Doonbeg is one of the most highly praised resorts in Europe.

It attracts visitors from across the globe for its scenic views of Ireland's Atlantic coast and, most importantly, for its celebrated golf course.

Since February 2014, the resort has been owned by Trump International, who scooped it up after the previous owners reportedly became unable to afford the necessary repairs from a particularly harsh winter.

"We’re going to reshape it and make it one of the greatest golf courses in the world," Trump said at the time.

Trump's first order of business? Build up the part of the golf course that runs along the beach.

An officially protected "special area of conservation," Doonbeg's Doughmore Beach had already lost more than 30 feet of its legendary dunes to erosion due to rising sea levels.

So Trump's sons Eric and Donald Jr. gave the go-ahead to move some massive boulders on the sand at the edge of the property — without bothering to get the proper construction clearance first.

As you can imagine, that didn't go over well. Local officials put a stop to the un-permitted rock wall quickly.

So the Trumps responded by ... threatening to build an even bigger wall.

It's a classic Trump negotiation tactic: If we have to ask permission to drop a few big boulders on your beloved beach, then we might as well go all the way and spend millions of dollars on a200,000-ton rock wall that's almost two miles long and 15 feet tall.

"It seems a very heavy-handed approach," David Flynn of the local West Clare Surf Club told theIrish Examiner. "We are not anti-development and we had a very good relationship with the golf club since 2002, but what they are planning is a quantum leap from previous proposals."

When the Trumps filed a permit application with the Clare County Council about building the wall, they used climate change to justify the project.

According to Politico's review of the application's environmental impact statement prepared by an Irish environmental consultancy, it said in part (emphasis added):

"If the predictions of an increase in sea level rise as a result of global warming prove correct, however, it is likely that there will be a corresponding increase in coastal erosion rates not just in Doughmore Bay but around much of the coastline of Ireland. [...] The existing erosion rate will continue and worsen, due to sea level rise, in the next coming years, posing a real and immediate risk to most of the golf course frontage and assets."

Basically, they argued that this giant wall is necessary in order prevent additional damage from rising sea levels, which are caused by global warming and only getting worse.

Keep in mind that Trump blamed the struggles of his Scottish golf resort on "bird-killingwind farms. He has vowed to renegotiate the already-lackluster Paris Climate Accord if elected president. His proposed energy plan https://www.upworthy.com/trump-is-already-building-a-wall-around-a-country-and-its-scarier-than-it-sounds?c=hpstreamrepeatedly refers to a nonexistent thing called "clean coal." And he has previously said that climate change is, "just a very, very expensive form of tax."

And then he specifically cited global warming as the reason why he needed to build an ugly rock wall to protect his treasured Irish golf resort.

This is, of course, incredibly maddening logic. But it's about the environment too.

Rising water levels and erosion are real problems, and seawalls can in fact help mitigate some potential harm to coastal communities. In that regard, Trump's appeal actually makes sense. But according to Friends of the Irish Environment, a proposed 15-foot wall around one specific part of the beach could seriously interfere with Doughmore's ecosystem.

The reverb from Trump's ginormous wall could affect the natural cycle of the dunes and vegetation, hurting not only the rare creatures that live in that pristine environment, but also ruining the beach's reputation as a stunning vista and surf destination. By deflecting the winds and tides, the wall could also cause greater flooding damage to occur along other parts of the coast — where the local people, many of whom work at the resort, have to live.

Oh, and if the wall doesn't get built? Trump has already threatened to close the resort and devastate the local economy.

Tourism is a multibillion-industry for the Republic of Ireland, and the people of Doonbeg are essentially being held hostage in a catch-22: either Trump's giant wall gets built and the locals lose their beloved beach while bearing the brunt of flooding damage, or 350 people lose their jobs immediately, with the rest of the community suffering as a result of that lost income.

"The fear of our friends and neighbours losing work is very scary," explained an administrator from the Save Doughmore Beach Facebook page, in an interview with Magic Seaweed. "We are in no way trying to close the hotel and golf course, we are just asking for some ethical business practices and some sound environment practices."

This whole situation is essentially a microcosm of what Trump stands for and how he gets his way.

We've seen him use wealth and status to bully the little guy, while willfully denying the facts of reality just to make some cash. And now he's employing those same manipulative, strong-arm negotiation tactics in a pissing match over environmental issues and the interests of a small community.

It's possible to build coastal protections that don't also damage the environment.

It's possible to build a resort that provides hundreds of jobs without taking over the entire community, impeding their access to public property, and essentially creating an economic throwback to feudal sharecropping.

It's possible to compromise and still make a profit, to provide good services in good faith that make the world a better place and also keep the money coming.

But Trump's modus operandi has always been the same: He'll say that climate change is a hoax at the same time that he builds an ivory tower to protect himself from its effects, while also abandoning his own workers to live with worsened water threats and no choice but to just keep working for the man who got them into that situation in the first place.

That's not the kind of person that I want to see in the White House.

October 17, 2016

 

By Thom Dun

https://www.upworthy.com/trump-is-already-building-a-wall-around-a-country-and-its-scarier-than-it-sounds?c=hpstream

 

 

 

The European Commission has written to Ireland seeking information about a river bank clearance undertaken by the Office of Public Works [OPW]. The work, associated with the Bandon River (Dunmanway) Drainage Scheme, was undertaken at the end of September, 2015.

 

More than 340 metres of riverbank was ‘significantly damaged’ according to an expert Report commissioned by the OPW in a subsequent investigation of the incident. The bank in question is adjacent to the Long Bridge in Dunmanway where the Bandon River hosts a ‘dense colony’ of the protected fresh water pearl mussel shaded by a protected woodland. The Report recorded ‘large quantities of loose mobile soil and bank collapse’.

 

The document, which Friends of the Irish Environment obtained under Access to Information on the Environment, details ‘removal of riparian trees and vegetation and disturbance of the ground resulting in the presence of large amounts of loose soil that may be easily eroded and transported into the adjacent mussel habitat’. It concluded that the ‘mussel habitat had been negatively impacted’ with mussels ‘likely to suffer mortalities’.

 

It is accompanied by numerous photographs of the clearance of the protected woodland. Subsequent site visits by the NPWS show the ‘complete overwhelming’ of the silt fences erected to ‘mitigate’ the work and control pollution by the OPW.

 

FIE provided the Report to the European Commission and has now made it available on their website. The Commission recently informed FIE that they had written to Ireland on 5 September 2016 seeking an explanation of the incident and of ‘what has been done on the basis of this report’.

 

A spokesman for the organisation said that this report was timely, coming as it does when pressure is growing to allow dredging of the Bandon River on the basis of emergency powers bypassing EU nature conservation legislation.

 

FIE Director Tony Lowes said that the Report ‘highlighted the dangers to the environment of the OPW’s highly interventionist approach to urban flooding which emphasises hard landscape measures over catchment management and soft measures.

 

‘The disastrous approach demonstrated in this Report is being replicated in the flood management schemes across the country through the OPW’s Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management (CFRAM) project. This Report provides graphic photographs of the River overwhelming entirely the fences put in place to control silt and hessian mats placed to control erosion. The OPW’s current flood control plans rely on the assumption that these ‘mitigation measures’ will work.

This experience on the Bandon River demonstrates these assumptions are not valid’, he said.

 

FIE has also written to the Minister Heather Humphries highlighting the concerns expressed by NPWS officials in internal emails who felt that this case highlighted the ‘complicated legal framework’ which ‘surely needs improving’.

ENDS

View the Photographic Report    /    Read the Report    /    And the Letter to the Minister

 

 

The European Commission has written to Ireland seeking information about a river bank clearance undertaken by the Office of Public Works [OPW]. The work, associated with the Bandon River (Dunmanway) Drainage Scheme, was undertaken at the end of September, 2015.

 

More than 340 metres of riverbank was ‘significantly damaged’ according to an expert Report commissioned by the OPW in a subsequent investigation of the incident. The bank in question is adjacent to the Long Bridge in Dunmanway where the Bandon River hosts a ‘dense colony’ of the protected fresh water pearl mussel shaded by a protected woodland. The Report recorded ‘large quantities of loose mobile soil and bank collapse’.

 

The document, which Friends of the Irish Environment obtained under Access to Information on the Environment, details ‘removal of riparian trees and vegetation and disturbance of the ground resulting in the presence of large amounts of loose soil that may be easily eroded and transported into the adjacent mussel habitat’. It concluded that the ‘mussel habitat had been negatively impacted’ with mussels ‘likely to suffer mortalities’.

 

It is accompanied by numerous photographs of the clearance of the protected woodland. Subsequent site visits by the NPWS show the ‘complete overwhelming’ of the silt fences erected to ‘mitigate’ the work and control pollution by the OPW.

 

FIE provided the Report to the European Commission and has now made it available on their website. The Commission recently informed FIE that they had written to Ireland on 5 September 2016 seeking an explanation of the incident and of ‘what has been done on the basis of this report’.

 

A spokesman for the organisation said that this report was timely, coming as it does when pressure is growing to allow dredging of the Bandon River on the basis of emergency powers bypassing EU nature conservation legislation.

 

FIE Director Tony Lowes said that the Report ‘highlighted the dangers to the environment of the OPW’s highly interventionist approach to urban flooding which emphasises hard landscape measures over catchment management and soft measures.

 

‘The disastrous approach demonstrated in this Report is being replicated in the flood management schemes across the country through the OPW’s Catchment Flood Risk Assessment and Management (CFRAM) project. This Report provides graphic photographs of the River overwhelming entirely the fences put in place to control silt and hessian mats placed to control erosion. The OPW’s current flood control plans rely on the assumption that these ‘mitigation measures’ will work.

This experience on the Bandon River demonstrates these assumptions are not valid’, he said.

 

FIE has also written to the Minister Heather Humphries highlighting the concerns expressed by NPWS officials in internal emails who felt that this case highlighted the ‘complicated legal framework’ which ‘surely needs improving’.

ENDS

View the Photographic Report    /    Read the Report    /    And the Letter to the Minister

 

 

PRESS RELEASE

4 September 2016 [posted 4/10/16]

 

The Department of Transport Tourism and Sport has been accused of ‘mocking’ the Paris Accord in ignoring national policy and legislation on climate change.

 

‘Just as two superpowers agree to the Paris Accord, our country is manifestly not on track to meet those targets’, a statement from the group said, ‘as the main elements of expenditure identified in the strategy will all lead to increased - not decreased - emissions’.

 

In its submission to a public consultation on the next Statement of Strategy for the Department to be adopted in 2017 [1], FIE says the Minister in adopting a recent Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area breached his legal obligations under the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act to ‘have regard to’ the objective of mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. It also entirely ignored the reorientation of national transport policy undertaken by the Government in 2009’s ‘Smarter Travel A Sustainable Transport Future - A New Transport Policy for Ireland 2009-2020’.

 

‘The Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area predicts increased numbers of motor vehicle trips, increased lengths of trips and increased emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollutants damaging to public health’, the group pointed out to the Minister.

 

According to FIE, ‘governments have continued to pay lip service to reducing green house gas emissions but have ignored policies put in place to ensure that Ireland meet these targets. The current Statement of Strategy (2015-2017) fails to even mention the targets established in 2009.

 

Quoting statistic from the Environmental Protection Agency, [EPA 2], FIE says this ‘avoidance’ is leading to a predicted increase in the transport sector emissions by 19% between 2013 and 2020 and a further 20% over the period 2020 to 2035. ‘Under current government policies, there will be no reductions to agricultural emissions while transport emissions will increase by about 40% between 2013 and 2035. It’s very hard not to feel that Ireland is mocking the Paris Climate Accord just as China and the United States commit their nations to honour it.’

The group has recommended to the Minister that the Statement of Strategy explicitly reference the obligations imposed by the recent Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act and the targets in Smarter Travel and set out how those obligations and targets will be met by the Department.

 

ENDS

 

 

CONTACT: Tony Lowes     087 2176316  /   027 74771

 

EDITORS NOTES

 

[1] FIE Submission

http://friendsoftheirishenvironment.org/images/pdf/statement_transport_16.08.16.pdf

 

[2] Environmental Protection Agency, 2015

http://www.epa.ie/pubs/reports/air/airemissions/EPA%202015%20GHG%20Projections%20Publication%20Final.pdf )