High Court quashes Edenderry Permission
Continued operation of power station was approved in 2013 without proper assessment of environmental effects, High Court holds
The High Court today upheld the case taken by An Taisce and quashed the permission granted by An Bord Pleanala to Bord Na Mona to extend the operating life of the peat and part biomass fueled power station at Edenderry Co Ofaly to 2023. This was on the grounds that the environmental impact of the peat extraction to fuel the continued operation of the power station was not assessed. The power stationburns up to 1.2 million tonnes of peat a year supplied by Bord na Mona.
A stay was placed on the quashing order until April 2016, to allow consideration of a second planning application which was granted by Offaly Co Co, but now under appeal to An Bord Plenala by An Tasice and Friends of the Irish Environment.
An Taisce’s case before the High Court was that, contrary to the EU Environmental Impact Assessment Directive, the environmental effects of extracting the peat fuel to be burned at Edenderry were not assessed before An Bord Pleanála granted planning permission to allow the plant burn peat from 2015 to 2023.
Giving the High Court's judgment earlier this month, Mr Justice Michael White held that there was "functional interdependence" between the power plant and the Bord na Mona bogs identified in the planning application.
"From any reasonable application of the objective facts of this project, there are possible indirect effects of the use of peat from these bogs on the environment," he added. "The difficulty is that [An Bord Pleanála] excluded completely the consideration of the indirect effects, when considering the planning application for the extension of life of the power plant," said Judge White.
The Court concluded that An Bord Pleanála "has interpreted the relevant legislation applying Article 3 of the Directive too narrowly".
Commenting on An Taisce's victory, Heritage Officer Ian Lumley said, "This was a real David versus Goliath struggle. This case underlines the crucial role An Taisce plays in the planning system as a prescribed consultee," added Lumley.
"Today we have defended and secured important public rights, because a proper impact assessment will give all of us the opportunity to examine the evidence of environmental impacts and give our input. Without this evidence and public consultation, any approval is uninformed, undemocratic, and ultimately unlawful" said Lumley. "By An Taisce addressing this in the Irish courts, and the Irish courts upholding EU law, this serves to reduce the massive reputational and cost risk to Ireland of action being taken against Ireland by the European Commission given the breach of EU law at issue."
"Bord na Mona announced recently that after 2030 it will no longer harvest energy peat.[Note 1] What it did not say is that it will by then have used up more or less all of its usable peat reserves in any event," concluded Lumley.
The High Court held that An Taisce was entitled to a declaration that where the environmental effects of extracting the peat fuel source for Edenderry power plant were not properly assessed for the purposes of the EU Environmental Impact Assessment Directive, An Bord Pleanála is obliged to ensure the effectiveness of the Directive by subjecting those environmental effects to Environmental Impact Assessment before any permission is granted for the power plant.
An Taisce thanks its legal team for their excellent work on this case: solicitor Andrew Jackson and barristers John Kenny BL and James Devlin SC.
For further information, please call:
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce Tel: +353 87 241 1995
Ian Lumley, Heritage Officer, An Taisce Tel: +353 1 454 1786
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland
1. Bord na Mona's statement regarding 2030 is here: http://www.bordnamona.ie/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Sustainability-2030.pdf