Irish Government Slammed with €5m Fine Over Wind Farm’s Environmental Disaster

Getting into bed with wind developers is never going to end well. For its troubles, the Irish government has just been whacked with a €5m fine for failing to enforce its own environmental standards at a wind farm near Derrybrien, County Galway.

During construction, the developer managed to wipeout half a mountain, sending a sea of peaty-sludge into a nearby river, thereby killing tens of thousands of fish.

Instead of going after the developer and enforcing its own environmental obligations, the Irish government prevaricated, taking the developer’s side, of course.

Europe’s Court of Justice took a different line, slamming the government with corrective orders and that whopping €5m fine.

Ireland fined €5m plus penalties over Co Galway wind farm
RTE
Pat McGrath
12 November 2019

The State has been fined €5m over its failure to assess the environmental impact of a wind farm in south Co Galway.

Further penalties of €15,000 a day will be imposed until Ireland complies with a 2008 instruction to properly examine the consequences of the 70-turbine development.

The Court of Justice of the European Union rejected arguments put forward by the State over its failures in relation to the Derrybrien Wind Farm.

In a ruling the court says that there was an obligation to take “all measures necessary” to remedy the failures in question.

It rejected the arguments put forward for failing to do this.

The saga dates back to October 2003 when a subsidiary of the ESB dislodged around half a million cubic metres of peat from the Slieve Aughty mountains during the early stages of construction of the wind farm.

Over a number of days, trees and debris flowed down the side of the mountain, causing a significant fish kill and disrupting life in the area.

In the immediate aftermath, remedial works were carried out. Deep channels were cut into the mountain, leading to a faster run-off of rainwater during the winters that followed.

In 2008, the Court of Justice found Ireland was in breach of its obligations and ordered that a retrospective Environmental Impact Assessment be carried out at Derrybrien.

The State argued the landslide had been caused by poor construction work, but the court found that it was because a proper assessment had not been carried out in advance.

On 3 July 2008 the ECJ ruled that Ireland had breached an EU environmental directive because an EIA had not been carried out ahead of construction.

Following that ruling, the Irish government was obliged to facilitate the operator of the wind farm in complying with EU law.

However, the ECJ found that the operator had not undergone that procedure, nor had it been initiated by the Irish authorities of their own initiative.

As such the European Commission took a second action for failure to comply with the ECJ obligations.

The ECJ ruled that all member states must comply with court judgments, and that following the earlier failure of the state to carry out an EIA, the State must also take into account not only the future impact of the plant, but also the environmental impact from the time of its completion.

The ECJ rejected Ireland’s arguments that national law limited the possibilities for the authorities to regularise the situation following the 2008 judgement.

The court pointed out that both the national authorities and the operator of the wind farm were required to remedy the failure to carry out an impact assessment.

The judgment says that “in light of the seriousness and duration of the failure to fulfill obligations”, the State must now pay the European Commission a lump sum of €5m and a periodic penalty of €15,000 every day, until the 2008 ruling is fully complied with.

Last year, Ireland was brought back to the European Courts because of the failure to comply with the 2008 judgment.
RTE

Ireland fined €5m plus daily penalty of €15,000 over landslides at Galway wind farm
The Journal
Seán McCárthaigh
12 November 2019

THE EU’S COURT of Justice has fined the State €5m over its failure to comply with EU legislation that might have prevented landslides linked to the construction of a wind farm in the west of Ireland in 2003.

The penalty is set to increase further as EU’s top court set an additional daily fine of €15,000 until the Government achieves compliance with environmental legislation on assessing the impact of the wind farm Derrybrien, Co Galway.

The fine is due to the “seriousness and duration” of the failure to carry out an environmental impact assessment on the wind farm in the 11 years since a previous CJEU ruling on 3 July, 2008.

Sludge from works at a wind farm above Derrybrien in Co Galway

 

The legal action by the European Commission followed a massive landslide at Derrybrien on 16 October, 2003, when tonnes of peat were dislodged and polluted the Owendalulleegh River, resulting in the death of around 50,000 fish.

At the time Derrybrien was the country’s biggest-ever wind farm, and one of the largest in Europe, with 70 turbines. Its construction required the removal of large areas of forest and the extraction of peat up to a depth of 5.5 metres.

The European Commission said two investigations had concluded that the environmental disaster had been linked to the construction work on the wind farm.

The Government had claimed that delays in carrying out a requirement under the 2008 ruling to conduct an environmental impact assessment of the Derrybrien wind farm was due to the complexity of underlying legal issues.

The owner of the windfarm has refused to undergo a “substitute consent” procedure, which is used in exceptional circumstances to allow for the regularisation of planning permissions which are granted for applications in breach of EU environmental legislation.

The Government claimed it could not legally compel the owner of the windfarm to submit to the process, and a remedial environmental impact assessment could only be carried out with their voluntary cooperation.

However, the CJEU rejected the State’s argument and said there was nothing to prevent an assessment being carried out after the construction of the wind farm.

Ireland had claimed the action was unfounded as it could not legally withdraw the planning permission which had been granted to the operator of the wind farm.

Earlier this year, the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government said it had been in regular communication with officials in Brussels on the issue.

It also said that it remained committed to ensuring that an appropriate environmental review of the wind farm took place.
The Journal

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.

Comments

  1. And who will be held liable for the harm to rural residents forced to have their homes surrounded by turbines?

  2. Reblogged this on ajmarciniak.

  3. Reblogged this on Climate- Science.press.

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