Day three of the oral hearing was the day concerned locals put forward their submissions on the substation in Coolnabacky.
Fand Cooney, Bill Fisher, Ray Ryan, Noel Graham and Dave Fingleton of the Ratheniska, Timahoe and Spink Substation Action Group put forward arguments against the project, including claiming a threat to a regionally important aquifer; impact on local people; and how EirGrid had not been forthcoming with what is coming down the line.
All the submissions were applauded by the dozens of residents who attended the hearing. One, Fand Cooney, received a standing ovation.
Ms Cooney started researching the project four years ago, shortly after having a baby, concerned by its health implications. Ms Cooney had taken annual leave to attend the oral hearing.
Drawing from numerous energy reports which she researched, Ms Cooney said that several lines were designed to go into Coolnabacky that EirGrid were aware of but had not been disclosed to the public.
Ms Cooney elaborated on the local belief that the substation would be used to facilitate renewables onto the grid. She pointed to EirGrid’s Grid 25 project brochure, which featured photos of wind turbines and pylons.
Ms Cooney said that in a ten-mile radius of the substation site, figures of 500 wind turbines were being mooted and which EirGrid would, potentially, have to connect to the grid.
She pointed to EirGrid’s former CEO Dermot Byrne having only last month been appointed to wind company Element Power’s board of directors.
“I hope EirGrid have their PR person here. This is a remarkable rebranding opportunity for you guys. You guys don’t represent a grid for the island or the interests of the public. You represent a development of a grid to facilitate private development,” she said.
Ms Cooney said that it was the group’s estimation that 17 lines could go into Coolnabacky substation.
Coolnabacky resident Ray Ryan gave a presentation on the impact of the project on local water and a regionally important aquifer located underneath the substation.
Mr Ryan said that an aquifer in the area supplied half the county and numerous springs in the area had not been considered by EirGrid.
Mr Ryan said that ground water measures taken by EirGrid’s hydrologist were taken in March 2012. Mr Ryan said that the March monthly rainfall was 50% the average annual rainfall in 2012 and, as a result, the figures did not give a full picture.
Mr Ryan said that the area was prone to flooding and had flooded twice in recent years. Mr Ryan said that water had been found one metre under the ground.
David Fingleton from Ratheniska gave a presentation on the construction impacts of the substation. He said that EirGrid’s construction environmental management plan lacked basic details, like the size or depth of the pylons or how potentially toxic construction material could threaten the aquifer.
Timahoe resident Bill Fisher gave a presentation on the impact of the project on locals. Dairy and beef farmers in the area were concerned that electric fences could be made live, according to Mr Fisher.
He said that contractors at the recent ploughing championships had been told not to erect anything near and underneath the power lines.
“Why was this? How are farmers expected to carry out all their daily work in these conditions,” he said. “They (contractors) were laying metal works and they were getting small electric shocks from the road.”
Mr Fisher said that there was fear that the area would be “reduced to a barren wasteland filled with numerous rusting monuments to man’s folly.”
Noel Graham from Ratheniska gave a presentation on what was proposed for the Coolnabacky site in the future.
He outlined, like several other speakers, the environmental impact statement non-technical summary (NTS) did not contain adequate information and a request for further NTS was ignored.
Mr Graham said that EirGrid initially advertised it as a project that was needed to meet energy demands in the Kilkenny area.
“This is described differently than what was said in non-technical summary, which includes counties Carlow, Kildare, Laois, Kilkenny and Wicklow as areas of concern. This is a completely different project that they advertised in 2009.”
Dave Malone gave a two- and-a-half hours highly technical presentation on how EirGrid and the project allegedly circumvented and broke European legislation.
Earlier in the hearing, deputy Sean Fleming said that EirGrid did not adequately consider alternative locations for the project where the 400kV line intersected the 110kV line, pointing to Ikerrin, Tipperary that was conveniently located just outside an area of investigation. Deputy Fleming said that EirGrid had also not considered the undergrounding of some cables while running others overground. He said that EirGrid, in one of its submissions, had made no mention of Laois Co Council’s recommendation that underground lines might be considered.
Deputy Fleming said the legal action taken by EirGrid after councillors voted to include a requirement of undergrounding of 400kV lines in the current Laois county development plan showed how EirGrid “dealt with public consultation.”
Cllr Padraig Fleming queried EirGrid’s barrister Jarlath Fitzsimons. Cllr Fleming asked whether the barrister had ever worked with Laois Co Council’s legal advisors McCann Fitzgerald or had been involved in EirGrid’s legal action against the council.
Mr Fitzsimons repeatedly said that he would not be commenting on it, as he claimed it was “wholly irrelevant.”
Cllr Fleming replied: “That (Mr Fitzsimons background) is a gaping hole that has not been filled. He will not stand up for himself. As EirGrid’s top legal man, why should we listen to EirGrid?”
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