Derrybrien Windfarm debacle could now cost us well over €4 million and rising

If this penalty application gets through in December – the Irish Government will have to pay over €4,168,000 into the ‘European Union own resources’ account and then continue to pay €10,000 per day thereafter.

From a previous article, Derrybrien Windfarm – Government and ESB treating us like fools,  we highlighted that the Irish Government was treating us like fool as European fines were mounting up on a daily basis – The situation looks a lot worse!

Here is the story so far: (In short)

  • In 2003, The Derrybrien Windfarm Developers (ESB – 95% owned by Irish Government)  didn’t do a proper Environment Impact Analysis for their development and proceeded with development and caused a massive landslide
  • In 2008 : After analysis the European Courts ruled against Ireland with a court order to reassess the Environmental Impacts and put in proper mitigation in place.
  • In 2008, the Irish authorities informed the Commission that the wind farm operator  (ESB) had agreed to provide an updated environmental impact assessment
  • In Jan 2018, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) issued a statement which indicated that Ireland would face fines of over €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.
  • In April 2019, a 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 – it wasn’t great and the Irish Government was harshly critizied as it 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. (ESB)
  • On 13 June 2019 an Application for an order to pay a penalty payment and a lump sum)  was proposed by the Advocate General to the Court and the picture is a lot starker.

Irish Government Response (or lack thereof)

Before we dive into the money – an interesting point to consider is that Richard Bruton Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment is also responsible the the ESB (well 95% responsible anyway) and obviously responsible for the Environment – so – this should have been easy as the buck stopped there.  After the April 2019 Judgement, frustrated by Government in-action I compiled a set of questions that I wanted the get answers to:

  • What progress has been made over the past 11 year and specifically, what actual progress has made in the past year, since the EU indicated potential fines of €2Million and 12K/day thereafter?  
  • Why does Ireland seem unprepared and unprofessional in this. (To quote an EU environment enforcement officer ” There was quite some disbelief that IE could/would not act more decisively against a 95% state owned company. ” What is causing this delay?
  • As its likely that we will now receive harsh fines – Who will be footing this bill? Will this be the ESB or the Irish Government?
  • What are the Governments plans to rectify this and when will this happen?

In order to get clarity I asked our local Fianna Fail TD, Deputy Anne Rabbitte to help get some clarification here and I asked her to frame some Parliamentary questions about this to the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment.  This she did and this was the response from the Ceann Comhairle 

“I regret to inform you that I have to disallow the (questions) … The Minister has no official responsibilities to Dail Eireann for this matter and is a matter for the ESB which is independent in its functions.”

parlimentaryQuestions

We are not allowed to ask questions about a potential large penalty to be imposed on the Irish Government by the European Court of Justice on an environmental infringement.  We are told we have to leave it to the ESB, a company 95% owned by the Irish Government, who promised to carry out an Environmental Impact assessment over 11 years ago because it is independent in its functions.

I can see how the European Court of Justice as critical of Irish Government governance = tail wagging dog

 

 

Potential Penalties

This is only an application and the final judgement will be given in a few months time, likely be the end of the year.  This application has proposed

  • A lump-sum fine calculated at a rate of €1000/day from the date of the Court Order to the date of final judgement
  • A daily penalty of €10,000/day from the date of final judgement until the matter is fully resolved.

This isn’t news (we have always known) that this was coming down the road – ESB could have avoided this – The Irish Government could have avoided this by just doing the EIA.

If we say the final judgement will be 1st December 2019. That’s exactly 4168 days since the Court Order. (3rd July 2008)

If this penalty application gets through in December – the Irish Government will have to pay over €4,168,000 into the ‘European Union own resources’ account and then continue to pay €10,000 per day thereafter.

Note :  This amount is 3 times the normal amount we should be paying because of the lack of response – Ireland got the maximum multiplier factor of 3 for this.

How does this relate to flooding in South Galway?

The original EIA of the wind-farm indicated that there would be no additional drainage on the 4sq KM site on the main Slieve Aughty Peak.  After the landslide happened the developers put in place a ‘Robust-Drainage‘ Scheme, which involved digging 6ft x 8ft drains from each of the 71 turbine bases .  Overall, the drainage of the site was impacted by:

  • 200 Hectares of forest was clear-felled
  • Over 30 km+ of drains were dug
  • Over 17km of roads were constructed
  • 71 turbine bases were dug out and  constructed

With no impact assessment – how knows the effect the wind-farm has on the drainage but if you now consider this picture you can see why Derrybrien, Gort and South Galway communities should be concerned.

derrybrien_rivers_gort.JPG

The severe flooding in Gort in 2009 was from the Gort River which comes down from this area.

The South Galway Flood Relief Committee want the same thing as Europe here – a proper assessment on the impacts of mountain operations in this area and retrospective mitigation to ensure that potential flooding impacts from the wind-farm are mitigated in some way.

The real frustration here is that rather than than investing in flood mitigation ware are throwing away money having to pay these penalties because organizations that could be contributing to the flooding won’t do the proper assessments and the Irish Government is standing idly by as money pours down the drain  – Meanwhile the South Galway Flood Relief project has a risk of not progressing because it could be deemed to be too costly

This is something that we need to get vocal about as this is our money we are wasting and our flooding solution that could be in crisis.  Please share!

Thanks,

-David Murray

 

 

For more information on the Derrybrien Windfarm Saga :

 

Notes:

  • There are other groups in South Galway are affected by the Windfarm landslide also. This has not been touch up under the South Galway Floods Blog.

 

Author: David Murray

Dave is a 'Solution Architect' with a hi-tech company called Arm. He is deeply involved in his community and his two key focuses are based around the rivers of South Galway. He is an activist in getting flood relief solutions in place for South Galway after decades of empty promises and also is also helping to progress a beautiful Gort River Walk for the South Galway/North Clare communities.

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