Interest groups want to sue environment ministry for not properly assessing environmental impact of test centre
The environment minister Karen Ellemann and the Danish Nature Agency have decided to postpone the felling of trees in the Østerild dune plantation until after the High Court has decided whether local land-owners can raise a case against the ministry.
The first stage of tree felling was recently completed despite local and foreign environmentalists protesting against the destruction of 1,500 hectares of forest to make way for the test centre for 187-metre tall windturbines.
Local landowners, together with the National Association for a Better Environment (Landsforening for Bedre Miljø), are now intending to sue the environment ministry for not having properly assessed the environmental impact of the test centre under guidelines set out by the EU.
The Western High Court is expected to decide by August 29 whether the case may proceed against the environment ministry.
While the Danish Nature Agency and the environment ministry initially planned to proceed with the tree felling while the court made a decision, they have since reversed their position. The change was met with mixed reactions from politicians.
“It’s surprising but sensible that they wait for the situation to play out. That’s what I’ve been arguing for all along,” Eyvind Vesselbo from the Liberal Party said.
But Jørn Dohrmann from the Danish People’s Party found the decision to postpone the tree felling a suspicious move.
“First they said they couldn’t wait for a decision on August 11, and then suddenly they can wait for a verdict on August 29. It just goes to show that they could have postponed it all along if they wanted,” he said.
The wind turbine test centre is an initiative between Vestas, Siemens and the Risø National Laboratory for Sustainable Energy at the Technical University of Denmark (Risø DTU). If the test centre does not stay on schedule, the project may see one or more investors pull out.
According to the Danish Nature Agency, however, while it was crucial for the first phase of tree felling to get completed, the second phase is more flexible.
“We have noted that the High Court may come with a verdict on August 29 and so we want to therefore minimise the damage if the verdict goes against us,” said vice president Hans Højer. “We have been able to reprioritise and wait with the tree felling and instead work on clearing up, chipping wood, pulling up roots, and so on.”
Henrik Svanholm from the National Association for a Better Environment is convinced the court will allow them and landowners to raise a case.
“I think the ministry should watch out,” Svanholm said. “It’s only positive that the high court is taking its time. I’m taking that as a clear sign that they are treating the case seriously.”
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