Minister Dennis Naughton, TD, Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, has been urged to support a United Nations Convention’s ruling requiring suspension of work on the new Hinkley Point UK nuclear reactor until a transboundary Environmental Impact Assessment [EIA] is completed.

 

The first new nuclear station to be constructed in the UK since 1995, Hinkley C is a 3.2GW nuclear power plant composed of two reactors. The power plant will generate 7% of UK's electricity if constructed. The UK position is that “the likely impacts determined through a thorough EIA do not extend beyond the county of Somerset and the Severn Estuary”.

 

The Espoo Convention, signed by Ireland in 1991, requires that the opportunity for comment provided to the public of potentially affected Parties is ‘equivalent to that provided to the public of the Party of origin’.

 

A complaint from the Irish NGO Friends of the Irish Environment in March 2013 to the UN Economic and Social Council determined that the UK did not met its obligations under the Espoo Convention.

 

The finding are due to be confirmed by a Meeting of the Parties to the Convention in Minsk on 13 June. FIE cited Ireland’s failure to answer the Committee's direct question about transboundary impacts when it was investigating this matter, writing ‘it is essential that you take a personal interest’.

 

FIE’s complaint cited an Irish Radiological Institute Report which acknowledged that in the event of an accident, Irish agriculture could be affected. ‘Food controls and agricultural protective measures would be required if any of these accidents occurred to ensure that food on sale in Ireland was safe to eat. In the case of the most severe accident scenario examined in the study, short-term measures such as sheltering would also be required’, the IRI Report concluded.

 

A spokesman for the group sad that ‘In spite of a strongly anti-nuclear Irish public, the Irish civil service decided that Ireland should bury it's head in the sand on UK nuclear issues for the sake of overall Anglo-Irish relations. The issue is far wider than simply Ireland and the UK. The current Minister must accept responsibilities under a Convention which we signed many years ago, represent Ireland’s long-standing opposition to nuclear power, and support international law under the United Nations ruling’.

 

The groups letter concludes: ‘We believe your support for the rulings of the Committee would be consistent with your own concerns for nuclear safety and effective international environmental law’.

 

ENDS

Contact: Tony Lowes 027 74771 / 087 2176316

NOTES TO THE EDITOR

Letter to the Minister

http://www.friendsoftheirishenvironment.org/library/17433-letter-to-minister-urging-support-for-un-ruling-requiring-suspension-of-work-on-new-uk-nuclear-plant

For details see previous FIE press release and related documents:

 http://www.friendsoftheirishenvironment.org/press-releases/17429-threat-to-work-at-hinkley-c-nuclear-plant-call-on-minister-to-assert-irish-rights

 

Irish Radiological study

https://www.rpii.ie/Site/Media/Press-Releases/RPII-reports-on-risks-to-Ireland-of-planned-new-UK.aspx

 

The Espoo Convention is about Transboundary Environmental Impact Assessment and has taken on a particular importance in relation to nuclear power issues.  

FIE has also urged the Minister to support a German initiative to amendment to the EIA legislation to require an assessment for renewal of licenses for nuclear power plants which are already old and dilapidated today. The move follows the upholding of a complaint to the Espoo Committee by a Ukraine NGO which has resulted in the Ukraine’s offer to subject the renewal of the licence for its nuclear plant at Belarus to a transboundary EIA.

FIE has told the Minister that ‘Involvement in a transboundary EIA prior to lifetime extensions is a valuable instrument for governments and the public to raise concerns and discuss particularly severe problems.’

FIE is in contact with NGOs in other European countries in relation to other Espoo Convention issues, whose concerns have informed our requests to Minister Naughten in relation to the issue of EIA for time extensions for nuclear plants reaching the end of their original design lives and in relation to the lack of EIA for a new nuclear plant in Belarus.

 

 

 

A Judicial Review brought by Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) alleges that the Chief Executive of Fingal County Council failed to provide satisfactory explanatory reasons for granting the extension to the original decision to allow a third runway at Dublin Airport. FIE alleges that the record shows that the Chief Executive was fully aware that the extra runway would result in increased greenhouse gas emissions, in contravention of the objectives of the 2015 Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act. 

 

Globally, aviation currently is responsible for about 5% of anthropogenic radiative forcing or human-generated climate change. However, while emissions from some countries and economic sectors are falling, emissions from international aviation are growing at over twice the rate of overall emissions. The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) estimates that, if the current trends continue, aviation emissions will increase by up to 300% by 2050, the period over which overall global emissions must be massively reduced if we are to meet the targets set in the Paris Agreement.

 

The planned third runway at Dublin Airport is based on the scenario of unconstrained aviation growth and travel demand which is incompatible with the Paris Agreement.  It reflects an implicit assumption by the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA), Fingal County Council and the Irish Government that no steps will be taken to limit the growth in aviation. Effectively the proposal assumes that we will ignore, or not bother trying to meet, the targets in the Paris Agreement.

 

According to FIE  Director Tony Lowes’ affidavit, the Fingal Chief Executive confined his consideration to a number of 'entirely general observations in relation to the International Civil Aviation Organisation and the possibility of certain actions being taken by the European Union in 2017 and 2018. These observations do not discharge the Council’s obligations under the legislation to have regard to four criteria – the national mitigation plan, the national adaptation framework, the implementation of the national transition objective, and the objective of mitigating greenhouse gas emissions - before deciding to grant the extension.

 

In this case, the Chief Executive made no mention of these legal requirements. "The fact is that the international and national context in respect of climate change has moved on dramatically since the runway was first granted permission, which included a very limited assessment of climate impacts. Every citizen possesses constitutional and natural rights to bodily integrity, life, water, food, health and an environment consistent with their right to dignity and well-being. Climate change will directly and irrevocably impinge on each and all of those constitutional and natural rights", according to the organisation’s challenge.

 

FIE has drawn attention to the recent decision of the Austrian Federal Administrative Court to refuse permission for a third runway at Vienna Airport due to the negative impact of climate change and the contribution to it by air traffic.

 

Further, in granting an extension in time to a permission given in 2007 on the basis of a 2002 Environmental Impact Statement, the Council has failed to consider any of the body of recent research, including IPCC Reports, for the last 15 years. FIE further contend that the grant of an extension of time for the runway, ten years after it was first granted and without any public consultation, is contrary to EU law.

 

FIE, which was founded in 1997, is represented FP Logue Solicitors and John Kenny, BL.

 

SPOKESPERSON: Sadhbh O’Neill    353 (0)87 2258599

Verification, documentation, and to arrange Irish language spokesperson

 Tony Lowes  353 (0)87 2176316

 

EDITORS NOTES

 

The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) estimates

 http://www.icao.int/environmental-protection/GIACC/Giacc-4/CENV_GIACC4_IP1_IP2%20IP3.pdf

 

The recent decision of the Austrian Federal Administrative Court to refuse permission for a 3rd runway at Vienna Airport due to the negative impact of climate change and the contribution to it by air traffic:

https://www.bvwg.gv.at/amtstafel/291_ERKENNTNIS_2.2.17_ee.pdf?5spp26

Unofficial translation into English:

 

 http://wordpress2.ei.columbia.edu/climate-change-litigation/files/non-us-case-documents/2017/20170317_W109-2000179-1291E_decision.pdf 

Concern over felling of mature oak trees at Longford estate

Investigation as at least nine trees up to 80 years old cut down on Castleforbes estate

Campaigners for the environment have expressed concern about the felling of at least nine mature oak trees up to 80 years old in the grounds of the Castleforbes estate in Co Longford.

Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed has confirmed an investigation into the felling on a 7.07-hectare area of woodland last year has been completed.

Friends of the Irish Environment complained in April last year about the felling, which was being conducted under a licence, after work allegedly continued into the bird-nesting season. However, after an investigation, work was resumed as no condition to protect the birds had been included in the felling licence.

Work ceased again in June 2016 after two letters from the National Parks and Wildlife Service were sent to the Minister requesting a halt to the works.

In a letter to Independents4Change TD Clare Daly last month, Mr Creed’s private secretary noted the investigation arose following complaints received about the reported felling of oak and replanting with Sitka spruce at the estate.

“The investigation concerned a 7.07-hectare area of woodland falling under a general felling licence, issued 2nd September 2014.”

The letter said the felling licence referred to a submitted woodland management plan that proposed the felling of Sitka spruce and birch.

Evidence

“Furthermore, the cover note that accompanied the felling licence, while having no legal status, stated that all oak, holly and rowan be left standing,” it continued. “There was therefore no legal consent given for the felling of oak trees. The forestry inspector for the area has now confirmed that there is evidence of at least nine oak trees felled along the periphery of the area.”

The letter noted an inconsistency between the felling licence and its cover note with regard to what trees were to be replanted, and said this inconsistency was “unsatisfactory”.

Procedures were being put in place to ensure that felling licences were clear in relation to exactly what was required of the licensee, the letter added.

“Due to the passage of time, the pursuit of an alleged illegal felling case is not possible in this instance. However, the landowners have agreed with the department to replace a portion of the replanted Sitka spruce with native Irish oak, to ensure that over 10 per cent of the total plot area comprises newly planted oak.”

 

Mark Connellan of Rawdon Estates said he could confirm “emphatically” that the company had complied fully with all its legal requirements in felling trees at the Castleforbes estate.

Elaine Edwards

Irish Times

March 16 2017

 

 

18 March 2017

Work at the UK’s proposed Hinkley Point C nuclear plant is under threat after investigation of a complaint to a UN Committee by the Irish environmental group Friends of the Irish Environment and a German Member of the Bunderstag German MP Sylvia Kotting-Uhl.

 

Following the UK Government's decision to approve the Hinkley Point C power plant without consulting the affected public in Ireland and other European Countries, FIE complained to the United Nations Implementation Committee of the Espoo Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context in March 2013 that we in Ireland had been deprived of our right to be consulted by the UK before constructing the first of a new series of nuclear power plants

 

The UN Espoo Convention, signed in the Finish city of Espoo in 1991, requires that the Party of origin ‘shall ensure that the opportunity provided to the public of the affected Party is equivalent to that provided to the public of the Party of origin.’ Ireland is signature to the Convention.

 

No such consultation took place before construction began on the UK nuclear plant. The Committee up held the complaints and ruled in June 2016 that the UK Government had failed to ensure that citizens of neighbouring countries had an equal right to be consulted about the proposed nuclear plant.

 

The Committee recommended that the United Kingdom contact neighboring governments to determine if they wished to be consulted as part of a transboundary EIA procedure. The Committee also decided to recommend to the Meeting of the Parties that if a potentially affected Party requests to be notified, the United Kingdom should suspend works related to the proposed activity until the transboundary EIA procedure is finalized.

 

According to information obtained by Sylvia Kotting-Uhl, the UK accordingly wrote to neighbouring countries 21 December, 2016. The MP confirmed that three countries – Germany, Norway, and the Netherlands - had responded seeking such a procedure, triggering the request to suspend work.

 

Ireland’s position from 2013  is that since the United Kingdom had concluded the likely impacts determined through a thorough EIA do not extend beyond the county of Somerset and the Severn Estuary’ that the requirements under the Convention regarding notification to other States did not arise and formal notification was not necessary.

 

Citing the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland [RPII] report and the subsequent ESRI 2016 study on "The potential economic impact of a nuclear accident - An Irish case study", FIE has written to Minister Naughten asking him what response Ireland made to the 21 December 2016 letter from the UK.

 

In its letter to the Minister, FIE drew attention to the UK’s decision of January 2017 to withdraw from the Euratom Treaty and sought reassurances ‘that policy changes have been made since 2013 to support the right of Irish citizens to partake in trans-boundary decisions.

 

‘The current Japanese liability for the continuing Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster stands as a stark warning against those, like the Irish Government, who accept the UK arguments that trans-boundary risks are so small as not to require assessment. Despite this, the Irish Department of the Environment and successive Ministers have sought to wash their hands of this matter. It is now up to Minister Naughten to stand up for public safety and to assert the rights of Irish citizens to participate in a transboundary Environmental Impact Assessment.’

 

ENDS

Comments: FIE Tony Lowes 087 2176316

 

Sylvia Kotting-Uhl MP, Spokesperson on nuclear policy issues, Parliametary group Alliance 90/The Greens Tel +49 30 227 747 42

 

Letter to the Minister

Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland outlined the risks to Ireland

Espoo May 2016 Report

Espoo March 2017 Report

The Austrian Federal Environmental Agency Expert Statement

f

 

 

Press Release

Friends of the Irish Environment

 

Investigation confirms illegal felling of heritage oaks

 

An investigation into alleged felling of heritage oaks in a protected woodland on Ireland’s largest private estate by the Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service has confirmed the felling of 9 oaks ‘between 60 and 80 years old with some older’.

 

The oaks were felled on Lady Georgina Forbes’ Castleforbes Estate on the Shannon River in the autumn of 2015 in spite of conditions requested by the Parks and Wildlife Service prohibiting their felling and requiring their retention. Designated for protection under the Habitats and Birds Directive, the woodland was first recorded in the 17th century.

 

Deputy James Bannon, TD for Longford Westmeath at the time, first raised the issue by tabling a written parliamentary question seeking information about the felling on December 6, 2015. Minister Heather Humphries replied that she would seek a Report on the matter and provide the Deputy with an answer.

 

The subsequent Report by the National Parks and Wildlife Service Ranger confirmed the felling of the oaks and the failure to replant the field in question with broadleaves, as requested by the Minister’s National Parks and Wildlife Service.

 

The Report, however, was never provided to the Deputy and the Forest Service was never informed by Minister Humphries’ Department. In response to further questioning by Deputy Clare Daly, the Minister absolved Department of any responsibility, stating that: ‘it is a matter for the Forest Service to determine if there were any breaches of licence conditions and, if so, whether any action needs to be taken in relation to such breaches under the provisions of the Forestry Acts.’

 

The investigation, which only took place after a review of the felling licences by Friends of the Irish Environment resulted in a series of complaint in 2016, determined that no prosecution was now possible because of the passage of time. Current legislation requires a prosecution within one year of the offence arising.

 

In a letter to Clare Daly, TD, who had pursued the matter through Parliamentary Questions on behalf of Friends of the Irish Environment, the Minister also explained that the conditions could also not be enforced as they were contained in a cover letter while the legislation requires any conditions to be contained within the body of a licences. A subsequent question ‘with regard to the conditions of a felling licence issued for the named location’ the Minister stated that she ‘can confirm that new procedures were drafted and have been implemented in the Department.’

 

Friends of the Irish Environment, whose intervention led to an initial halt in felling and investigation in April of this year, welcomed the Forest Services’ new procedures.

 

However the group has written to Minister Humphries, questioning why the Report was not provided to the Guards or the Forest Service and if she will ensure that a protocol is put in place to ensure that this will not happen again.

 

Letter from Minister for Agriculture confirming felling

http://www.friendsoftheirishenvironment.org/images/Castleforbes/Castleforbes-Dept-Ag-response-letter.pdf

 

Letter to the Minister seeking assurances

http://www.friendsoftheirishenvironment.org/forestry/forestry-news/17423-minister-humphries-on-castleforbes-failure-to-report-felling

 

 

Further information: Tony Lowes 353 (0) 27 74771  / 353 (0)87 217 6316

ENDS