Many of us have come to realize that big wind is a global industry on the scale of big oil whose the tactics and methods to subvert the democratic process and force wind developments into people’s communities come from the same playbook. It is therefore interesting and necessary to recognize the developments and successes that wind warriors in other countries have had.
Does the following briefing given by Alice Whittaker to the Irish Wind Farm Association not remind one of similar briefings given to the wind industry by lawyers and law firms in this Province? Alice Whittaker is an Environmental Solicitor for Philip Lee Solicitors. Philip Lee are heavily involved in representing the wind industry. Her comments regarding the High Court case by Pat Swords are particularly interesting not only for what they reveal about the attitudes of developers but also because we have been following and supporting Pat in his long struggle for justice and have previously reported on him here, here, here, here and here.
Ireland has many social and economic problems and like Scotland or Ontario suffers from regulatory capture by the wind industry and an authoritarian, activist, government deaf to everything other than its agenda and willing to ignore local rights to implement its ideology.
So it is encouraging to read of recent developments in Ireland.
Leading doctors have called on the Government to reduce the noise levels of wind turbines — which they claim are four times that recommended by World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines.
The Irish Doctors’ Environmental Association also said the set-back distance of 500m is not enough, that it should be increased to at least 1,500m.
Visiting Research Professor at Queen’s University, Alun Evans and lead clinical consultant at Waterford Regional Hospital Prof Graham Roberts have both expressed concerns over the current noise levels and distance of turbines from homes.
Environment Minister Alan Kelly is currently reviewing the wind energy planning guidelines and the group is calling for both issues to be examined closely in the interest of public health.
The association has called for the introduction of a maximum noise level of 30 decibels as recommended by the WHO and for the set-back distance from inhabited houses to at least 1,500m from the current 500m.
Prof Evans said the construction of wind turbines in Ireland “is being sanctioned too close to human habitation”.
“Because of its impulsive, intrusive, and sometimes incessant nature, the noise generated by wind turbines is particularly likely to disturb sleep,” he said.
“The young and the elderly are particularly at risk. Children who are sleep-deprived are more likely to become obese, predisposing them to diabetes and heart disease in adulthood. As memory is reinforced during sleep, they also exhibit impaired learning.”
Prof Evans said adults who are sleep-deprived are at risk of a ranges of diseases, particularly “heart attacks, heart failure, and stroke, and to cognitive dysfunction and mental problems”.
Prof Evans, attached to the Centre for Public Health at Queen’s, said the Government should exercise a duty of care towards its citizens and exercise the ‘precautionary principle’ which is enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty.
“It can achieve this by raising turbine set-back to at least 1500m, in accordance with a growing international consensus,” said Prof Evans.
In a statement, the Department of the Environment said that in December 2013 it published draft revisions to the noise, set-back distance, and shadow-flicker aspects of the 2006 Wind Energy Development Guidelines.
These draft revisions proposed:
- The setting of a more stringent day and night noise limit of 40 decibels for future wind energy developments;
- A mandatory minimum setback of 500m between a wind turbine and the nearest dwelling for amenity considerations;
- The complete elimination of shadow flicker between wind turbines and neighbouring dwellings.
Read it all here…
On 1 July 2010, Ireland pledged to support a legal obligation to reach a 16 per cent share in renewable energy consumption by 2020. More recently, buoyed by the apparent success of the initial policy, the Irish Government indicated its intention to explore the potential for a wind generated electricity export market. However, Ireland’s wind policy and most of its commercial wind developments constructed before 2011 are open to legal challenge for having breached EU law.
The jurisprudence has broad-ranging implications for renewable energy across the EU, and for environmental lawyers and policy-makers in all 28 of the EU’s Member States.
On 15 October 2010, Pat Swords (an engineer and environmental activist in Dublin) lodged a communication with the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee (ACCC), which alleged a number of breaches of the Aarhus Convention in the preparation and finalization of Ireland’s wind policy (the ‘Swords complaint’). The Aarhus Convention entered into force on 30 October 2001 as the first legally binding instrument at supranational level to guarantee access to information, public participation in decision-making and justice in environmental matters. Compliance with the Convention is reviewed by a nine-member-strong ACCC, which may consider submissions, referrals and communications (including those from members of the public) on the compliance and interpretation of the Aarhus Convention and issue recommendations. The Aarhus Convention became part of the EU’s legal order in 2005. Although Ireland was not a party to the Treaty at the time the communication was lodged, the EU was bound by it, and the decision that followed was significant. In the first instance, it was found that a central omission had been made in the formalization of Ireland’s plan to develop a wind-generated electricity market (as outlined in the Irish NREAP). Public participation at an adequate level did not occur to support the decision. The two-week-long public consultation that had taken place was found to be inadequate to fulfil the obligations of the Aarhus Convention.
…The case also pointed to further deficiencies in the finalization of Ireland’s NREAP under EU law. The NREAP was not subjected to an environmental assessment (as is required for ‘plans’ that fall within the definition stipulated by the SEA Directive).
…The problems faced by the wind industry are twofold. The market rests on an unsolid foundation, and no evidence can be produced that supporting wind is the best option for Ireland to fulfil its renewable energy obligations up to 2020. Such evidence would be available had Ireland’s NREAP fulfilled the requirements of the SEA Directive, particularly those requiring the government to subject the plan to an environmental assessment, and to allow the public an early and effective opportunity to express their opinion on both the NREAP and its accompanying environmental assessment. However, these requirements were not fulfilled, and as a result the NREAP remains vulnerable to a legal challenge seeking its revocation or suspension. Compounding this instability, following the Derrybrien wind and wild birds decisions a large proportion of individual Irish wind developments can be identified as vulnerable to legal challenge or enforcement proceedings (for having been developed in breach of either the EIA, or the Birds and Habitats Directives). In this instance the result of a successful challenge could bring an order requiring a development’s removal and the restoration of the site. Alternatively, compensation could be awarded. As such Irish wind developers are in a precarious position. Furthermore, as the regulation and the delays experienced in obtaining permits for wind developments have increased, future Irish wind development is a much less attractive prospect. The overall consequence is that Ireland is unlikely to meet its 40 per cent renewable electricity or its 16 per cent renewable energy target. Moreover, a failure to meet the 16 per cent target will prevent Ireland utilising the Renewable Energy Directive’s flexibility mechanism to statistically transfer renewable electricity to other Member States, thus preventing Ireland from fulfilling its ambitions to become a significant renewable energy exporter. While it is unclear if Irish wind development can recover in the interim, what is apparent is that a large potential for lawsuits exists. As such it will be interesting to see if in sowing the wind, Ireland will ultimately reap the whirlwind.
Full article available only to members of the International Bar Association here
EU court rules against Ireland in wind farm case
Ireland failed in its environmental obligations involving a wind-farm project in Co Galway where a landslide occurred in 2003.
The European Court of Justice has ruled against Ireland, saying a proper environmental impact assessment should have been carried out before the wind farm at Derrybrien was built.
At the time of the landslide in October 2003, the wind farm at Derrybrien was the largest in Ireland.
The landslide moved nearly half a million cubic metres of earth, polluted a river and killed 50,000 fish.
Complete article here