Derrybrien Windfarm – Government and ESB treating us like fools

.. guess who will be footing this bill when the EU Court comes back? Yep! That would be us the tax payers – This latest bumbling .. happened on the 1st April and our Government is making us all look like April fools…

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There is a very recent update that happened last Monday (1st April 2019) in Luxembourg related to the Derrybrien Windfarm situation. Just in case you haven’t heard of what’s happened to date, here is a quick recap;

  • In 2003, without doing a proper Environmental Impact Analysis for a massive Windfarm on the Slieve Aughty Mountains – the mountain top was clear-felled of 200 Hectares of forestry, over 17km of roads were constructed and 71 turbine bases were constructed, leading to local disaster of a significant landslide.  In order to mitigate against further landslides developers imlemented a ‘robust’ drainage scheme and dug up to 30km of deep drains into the mountain top to keep it dry.
  • In 2008, the European Court of Justice highlighted that Ireland failed to ensure that work on projects that might require an environmental impact assessment (EIA) did not start before the necessary checks or studies are carried out.  The Irish authorities agreed to undertake an EIA to look in detail at further potential issues
  • In 2010, The European Commission issued a final warning over breaches of environmental law.
  • In 2017, the South Galway Flood Relief Committee visited the European Commission in Brussels to highlight our concern about the impact that this robust drainage scheme had on flooding in South Galway.  We highlighted lack of any progress or community involvement on the part of the Windfarm owners (ESB)
  • In Jan 2018, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) issued a statement which indicated that Ireland would face fines of almost €2m.  The court stated that even at this late stage, a full EIA must be conducted, which must include full consultation with residents, industry and other relevant stakeholders. The wind farm would then be obliged to take whatever “mitigation” measures and remedial work that such a report recommends. While Ireland had agreed to this back in 2008, the commission says Ireland has not honored part of the 2008 judgment requiring a full EIA.

That leads up to last Monday when the CJEU met in Luxembourg on the case.   The full contingent of Judges (15) were there to listen to Ireland’s progress since January last year.

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You can only imagine the update from Ireland – Zilch.  There had been a series of questions sent in advance, but these were then not really followed because Ireland conceded on the day that the developer would now go through the substitute consent process although we didn’t seem to know how we were going to do this.  (Use section 177B or 177C of the Act)

Martin Collins from Derrybrien, was in attendance and he say that our representatives (Mr Connolly was the Counsel for Ireland) did us no favors in front of the judges.

“There was no indication of progress or even clarity of how we proposed to progress.  There was a strong sense of frustration from the judges that Ireland continues to ignore these harsh warnings.”, said Martin.

The court was also not at all pleased with the fact that Ireland had not acted to implement the earlier judgment and there was quite some disbelief that Ireland could/would not act more decisively against a 95% state owned company.

The irony of the fact that Ireland could not act against a 95% state-owner company is that the Minister for the Environment is also Minister for the ‘ESB’ 🙂  – That’s Minister Richard Bruton since 11 October 2018 (formally Denis Naughten)

In summary, Ireland has clearly ignored their commitment for 11 years and in recent years the warnings have ratcheted up. The threat is €2 million in fines and €12,000 a day until we fix this and last Monday we came to the party unprepared.

The Windfarm developers (ESB) caused the landslide, they were found out by our European Courts and Ireland was slapped with a court order to reassess the Environmental Impacts and put in proper mitigations. Instead of our Minister of Environment doing the right thing and being proactive on this and getting ESB to play ball – we’ve been playing a bullet-dodging game with the European Courts. This is all within Minister Bruton’s call but we’re bumbling it up.

The Advocate General’s opinion is due out on 13 June 2019 and the judgment will then follow at some time before the end of this year – and it’s not looking too positive.

In the meantime 200 Hectares of clear-felling and 30km of 8ft deep drains promote rapid run-off of water downhill into South Galway – we want to know what the impact is an what they are going to do to help the South Galway communities in our efforts to get a flood relief solution.   For Derrybrien , the Derrybrien Development Society wants the same answers to understand the impacts of European’s biggest windfarm in their back yard and how they will mitigate against disasters like we had in 2003.

And guess who will be footing this bill when the EU Court comes back? Yep! That would be us the tax payers – This latest bumbling happened on the 1st April and our Government is making us all look like April fools.

-David Murray

For More info please read previous articles.