5 September: In a landmark decision, the Planning Appeals Board rules against Bord na Mona and requires them to seek planning permission for the extraction of peat on a 100 hectare site at Abbeyleix, Co Laois. By this precedent, will Bord na Mona now have to apply for planning permission for the 1,500 hectares of peatlands they need each year for the new power stations, opening the way to the first Environmental Impact Assessment of peat extraction in Ireland's history? Read the Press Release.
AN TAISCE PRESS RELEASE 4 September 2002 Planning permission required for Abbeyleix Bog An Taisce today welcomed the decision by An Bord Pleanala that Bord na Mona must seek planning permission for works to extract 100 hectares of peat from Killamuck Bog, Abbeyleix, Co.Laois, for horticultural purposes. Bord na Mona contended the development works they proposed were exempt because drainage work had commenced prior to the new Planning and Development Act 2000. Shirley Clerkin, Natural Environment Officer, An Taisce stated "Nationally, Bord na Mona will have to reassess its plans for the harvesting of peat for the new peat-burning stations for Lanesborough and Shannonbridge for which they have also claimed exemption from planning permission. On the European level, we will be forwarding this decision to the President of the European Parliament as part of the petition by Irish NGOs in relation to the peat extraction planned for the two stations, for which neither planning permission was sought nor EIS submitted". The decision by the Board gave as its reasons that the bog had been "abandoned" for a period of years. It also cited the increased level of traffic generated, the new entranceway required, and the fact that the public had traditional access to this amenity for a period of ten years. ENDS More information: Shirley Clerkin, An Taisce - 042 93 20270 Detailed comment: Bord na Mona contended in their submission to the Appeals Board that the development works they proposed were exempt because drainage work had commenced prior to the new Planning and Development Act 2000. 'Peat extraction' had never been specified as exempted development in the Planning Acts, until the 2001 Planning and Development Regulations(S.I no 600 of 2001) (Schedule II, Part 3, class 17). This states 'peat extraction in a new or extended area of 10 hectares or more, where the drainage of the bogland commenced prior to the coming into force of these regulations'. An Taisce argued in their submission that this provision was in direct conflict with the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations which provide that 'peat extraction' which would involve a new or extended area of 50 hectares is 'specified development', meaning it cannot be exempted. An Taisce also opposed the Bord na Mona view that "the lands are not of any particular ecological significance". A study submitted by A.R.E.A. the local action group trying to conserve the bog stated in relation to the survey "These are just a handful of rarest of the 350 plant species and 160 animal species identified by surveys to date and these essentially only in one summer season on a limited area of the site. Consequently, the very significant ecological and biodiversity value of the site has only begun to be uncovered" It is also important to note, that although Bord na Mona holds an Integrated Pollution Control licence for this site (granted 29th February 2000 by the Environmental Protection Agency) that no Environmental Impact Assessment was undertaken, nor an Environmental Impact Statement submitted as part of this IPC application, despite a clear legal requirement to so do. In addition, the local community were not adequately provided with the opportunity to comment on the application as the notice in the newspaper stating that Bord na Mona were applying for an IPC licence only stated the following location: "Coolnamona Group c/o Boora Works, Boora, Leabeg, Tullamore, Co. Offaly". Nowhere did the notice state that the location of the activity was actually Abbeyleix, or even in Co. Laois. LEGAL ANALYSIS
MONDAY 3 SEPTEMBER, 11 AM PLACE: BUSWELL'S HOTEL PETITION TO EU TO HALT NEW PEAT POWERED ESB STATIONS Patricia McKenna, Green MEP, today launched a Petition to the President of the European Commission on behalf of six Irish environmental NGOs seeking to prevent approval of subsidies for the two new proposed peat powered electricity stations at Laneborough and Shannonbridge. Green TD Trevor Sargent joined Patricia McKenna at the Press Conference before Ms McKenna left for Brussels with the Petition. The Irish Government has applied to the European Commission for approval of a Public Service Obligation to permit the uneconomic cost of producing peat powered electricity to be recovered from all Irish users of electivity. Patrick Finnegan of the newly formed Grian, Greenhouse Ireland Action Network, claim that "by permitting the imposition of a Public Service Obligation to support fossil fuels, the Commission works directly against the restructuring of the Irish electricity industry to favor alternative energy, where a PSO is rightly in place to support wind generation and water turbines and could be extended to the wind generation opportunities identified by Bord na Mona on cut-away bogs." The six environmental groups claim that "the proposed cross subsidising of these power plants will further distort competition and create a market access barrier for alternative and more environmental friendly and cost effective sources of electricity supply and raw materials." The environmentalist claim that the proposed stations will contribute to Ireland's greenhouse emissions through harvesting a valuable carbon sink as well as emitting more CO2 than natural gas. "We hear a great deal about forests as carbon sinks, but forests "sink" only 300 tons of carbon per hectare where raised bogs hold up to 2,000 tons per hectare. Neither the Planning Authority or the Environmental Protection Agency IPCC licenses will address the issue of greenhouse gas emission from the harvesting of turf", a spokesman for the NGOs stated. "The Governments arguments that the new plants are required for national security is outdated by the Corrib gas FIEld. And if the justification is income redistribution, there are more efficient ways of doing it than building power plants." Further Information: An Taisce at 01- 454 1786 or 086-8251236 An Taisce, Friends of the Irish Environment, Irish Peatland Conservation Council, Grian the Greenhouse Ireland Action Network, The Irish Wildlife Trust, VOICE of Concern for the Irish Environment. Notes to editors Petitions to the European Commission are the right of every citizen. Apporoximatly 1,500 petitions are lodged each year, signed by several million people. Petitions take 12 - 18 months before they are determined by the Committee on Petitions. "The central issue is the subsidisation of a fossil fuel which damages the environment. The Commission should restrict energy subsidies to renewable energy." This Petition has 8 grounds Contravention of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and Kyoto Protocol Though emissions and through harvesting of a carbon sink. Lack of compliance with Habitats Directive Ireland's list of bogs is incomplete. Contravention of Biodiversity Convention Requires protection of our biodiversity even when outside of designated areas. Security of national supply An argument that is weakened both by the Corrib gas FIEld and by the recently built plant at Edenderry. Competition & State Aid Issues & Disadvantaging renewable energy Cross subsidising of these power plants will further distort competition and create a market access barrier for alternative and more environmental friendly and cost effective sources of electricity supply and raw materials. Protection of Archaeological Heritage The Valletta Convention requires the conservation of elements of the archaeological heritage including all remains and objects and any other traces of mankind from past epochs. Lack of rehabilitation proposals Any other form of mining requires binding rehabilitation agreements and consultative after use plans. Further Information: An Taisce at 01- 454 1786 or 086-8251236