Permission to continue burning peat at Edenderry plant quashed

Published by Aoife Rose O'Reilly on

October 19th 2016

The burning of 1.2 million tons of peat a year should have been included in the environmental assessment of the Edenderry power plant, a High Court Judge has concluded.

This was the reason given for the decision by the High Court to quash Bord na Móna’s permission to continue burning peat at the plant, in a massive vindication of the concerns of environmentalists.

There have been recent developments in this long-running case. The Judge has given a stay on the decision until the end of February 2017.

Earlier in this case the High Court ruled An Bord Pleanála had not properly considered the emissions of peat extraction from the bog.

Bord na Móna initially submitted a second, wider ranging Environmental Impact Survey to An Bord Pleanála. A year has passed since then with no decision on the matter. The plant has been operating without planning permission since the start of 2016.

The original planning permission for this plant to operate expired in 2015 and was initially extended up to the early 2020’s. This decision was subsequently challenged by An Taisce and Friends of the Irish Environment.

In a statement, Fintan Kelly of An Taisce commented:

“This brings to an end the long-running uncertainty over the operation of Edenderry power plant following the judgment which An Taisce successfully obtained from the High Court more than a year ago. Our agreement with Bord na Móna will mean that Bord na Móna will have had a full calendar year within which to regularise Edenderry’s planning status. More in fact, since Bord na Móna applied for fresh planning permission in June 2015, in anticipation that it might lose this case. If An Bord Pleanála does not take a decision by 25 February 2017 or if it refuses permission for the continued operation of the power plant, then the plant will have to cease power production by 25 February 2017 (or 8 weeks after a refusal of permission, whichever is earlier) further to the agreement between Bord na Móna and An Taisce.”

“An Taisce is satisfied that this case has now finally been brought to a conclusion, given that the plant has been operating for the best part of 10 months under a permission that the High Court has held is in breach of EU and Irish law. An Taisce is not insensitive to the situation of the employees at the power plant. An Taisce understands that Bord na Móna reported a net profit of some €52m for 2014 and €33m for 2015 and that it therefore has the wherewithal to mitigate any adverse effects on its employees which any cessation of power production (whether temporary or permanent) at Edenderry power station may entail. The onus is on Bord na Móna to provide a sustainable long-term strategy for jobs. Those jobs cannot be based on burning huge quantities of environmentally-destructive fossil fuels.”

Kelly continued: “An Taisce has previously suggested that if the huge subsidies which are currently directed towards burning peat were instead invested in, for example, creating jobs in the retrofitting industry, 3000+ jobs could be created in the Midlands. The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Denis Naughten has recently indicated that the number of homes being retrofitted next year will increase by 5,000 to 30,000. Given that nationally more than a million homes are badly insulated, there is an urgent need for retrofitting to be ramped up further still.”

SIPTU has called for a meeting with Minister Denis Naughten to discuss the future of many jobs at power plants in counties Offaly and Longford.

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Aoife Rose O'Reilly

Aoife is a contributor to Green News. She has a degree in Natural Sciences from Trinity College Dublin and an MSC in Evolutionary Biology from UCD. She also volunteers with Dublin Zoo.