This is a guest post by Pat Swords.
One sometimes has to go be persistent and dig out the evidence bit by bit until one has what can be justifiably described as a 'smoking gun'. Look at the attached emails, received from the EU Commission by Joseph Caulfield, one of those now following my 'road somewhat less travelled'. If you look at the first message you might be initially perplexed, but then you might not recognise the person in the Commission it is from. However, while not a household name, the sender does have some major significance: she is the Secretary General of the EU Commission.
So what is it all about and how did we get there? In July 2012 the EU opened a consultation on energy infrastructure projects that would be considered for preferential funding and planning arrangements. I don't know if you were aware of this, but the electricity projects for Ireland were quite shocking not only in terms of financial scale, but also in relation to their massive environmental impact. I'm sure you will recognise similar features in relation to those proposed for Scotland.
However, all that was provided for the public was essentially a 'one liner' description. So how could an effective public participation take place?
What then began was a battle, which is still on-going, and which you can follow in logical order in the emails. The EU was requested to provide supporting information on the projects, as this wasn't available from the developers or the Department of Energy here in Dublin. There was a flat out refusal to provide it, and rules related to privacy and commercial confidentiality were quoted. The matter then went to a legal request under the Aarhus Regulation. There was again a refusal, this time from Philip Lowe, the Director General in DG Energy.
This was considered unacceptable, so a confirmatory application was made. Under the Aarhus Regulation there are 15 working days allowed with regard to replying to requests for information. After 15 working days, a reply was received requesting an extension in time. And the end of this 15 working days a similar reply was received. When 15 working days had passed and no reply was received, a formal complaint was sent to the EU Ombudsman. This was acknowledged and in time the EU Ombudsman confirmed that a formal investigation would be conducted into the failure to provide the documentation.
Today, almost exactly seven months after the initial request was made, what was received from the Secretary General of the EU Commission was a short and concise blank questionnaire form that supposedly the developers filled in, in order to be selected as potential projects of Common Interest.
What is disturbing, is that if you have ever been to Dublin (or seen U2 Videos), there is the very prominent landmark of two adjacent power station chimneys; these are 207 m tall. For the midlands region of Ireland there are now proposals to build more than two thousand turbines at 185 m in height to export renewable electricity to the UK. This project, Element Power, was one of the seven electricity projects in the "consultation".
The impacts of this project are simply staggering, yet here we have the most senior officials in the EU rushing through a consultation in respect of potential priority funding and planning for it and other developments and we now find out, after seven months of persistence, that either:
- they have no information to back it up or
- what they have is so trivial they are embarrassed to release it.
If the general public knew what form of administration and accountability was going on, they would be rightly shocked, so I hope you and others can distribute this message.