Councilors say ‘outside influences’ play too big role in planning process – Connacht Tribune – Galway City Tribune:

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has told the ESB to either ‘go to court or demolish’ the controversial Derrybrien wind farm in south Galway – where more than €13million in fines have already been imposed on the ‘State.

The Tánaiste said the saga in the Sliabh Aughty Mountains had gone on too long and BSE now had to fix the problem quickly.

A massive landslide occurred during construction of the 70-turbine farm in 2003, pushing thousands of cubic meters of peat down the mountain.

In 2019, the Court of Justice of the EU found that Ireland had breached environmental safeguards in relation to the construction of the wind farm by a subsidiary of ESB.

A fine of €5m was imposed by the EU in 2020, along with daily fines of €15,000 since – the total is now over €13m.

The issue was raised again in the Dáil last week by Galway East TD Ciarán Cannon, who sought clarification on whether the state would pay the fine on behalf of BSE.

“In 2003 there was a huge landslide associated with this development. There have been significant and ongoing environmental transgressions since, as since 2019 the European Commission has fined Ireland €15,000 per day for these transgressions.

“We paid a cumulative fine of 13.2 million euros. Recently, An Bord Pleanála refused what is essentially retrospective consent for this development.

“Do we intend to continue paying this fine of €15,000 a day on behalf of ESB? Knowing that An Bord Pleanála refused its consent, is this now an unauthorized development? »

Mr Varadkar said the ESB needed to make a decision on Derrybrien’s future.

“It’s a long saga that’s been going on for far too long. I’m a big fan of BSE as a company, but they haven’t covered themselves in glory when it comes to this issue.

“A decision has to be made by the ESB. He must take the matter to court or demolish and remove the wind farm. It’s one or the other. It is a decision for this company, but it must solve this problem quickly, the Tánaiste told the Dáil.

Deputy Cannon later said: “We cannot continue to pay a fine of €15,000 a day, we cannot continue to see damage to the local environment, especially the heavy water run-off which happens whenever we have a few rainy days.

“It is safe to say at this point that the development of this wind farm has exacerbated the flooding problems that have plagued South Galway for decades. The ESB is a highly reputable semi-state body that is doing great work in developing renewable energy at home and abroad, but in this case it has not acted professionally. They must learn from their mistakes. »

Following the EU ruling in 2019, Galway County Council asked the ESB to seek consent for a replacement at An Bord Pleanála.

Last month, An Bord Pleanála refused to grant a “surrogate consent” (effectively a process to retroactively obtain planning permission and regularize planning relating to environmental impact issues) for the wind farm.

The Commission ruled that the repair work carried out since the landslide had not “fully mitigated the significant environmental effects” that occurred. He said the extent of the damage was “clear, profound and unacceptable” and cannot be fully mitigated, and denied ESB’s claim.

Louisa R. Loomis