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Senator John Whelan

LABOUR PARTY Spring 2013

TURBINES, PYLONS AND POWER LINES ARE ALL CONNECTED Turbines, pylons and power lines are all connected. And they are about to connect to your life in a big way and in a fashion you never imagined. We have to stop seeing these issues, planning and projects in isolation and as someone else’s problem. It is pointless to adopt an individual, local or parochial approach. We need to step back and see the bigger picture and the impact of what is planned on our neighbours, our community and our land and landscape for generations to come. There may be a modest initial windfall for a small number of landowners – but at what price to others – our friends and neighbours first and foremost, not to mention the natural and visual amenity, the environmental and ecological impact blight on the landscape for evermore. The planning process and current legislation may favour Eirgrid and this new wave of wind farm developers. But the moral authority and democratic right and determination rest with you, our community and your representatives. We must stand together and speak clearly with one voice in a coherent and constructive fashion. If we do so we can resist and prevent hundreds of pylons, thousands of turbines and a spiders-web cocoon of hi-voltage cables being driven out on top of us here in our midlands. The landscape is valuable and precious. It is ours and our responsibility to protect it and it is not Eirgrids or others to destroy. It is a visual amenity which attracts tens of thousands of tourists and visitors annually.

“Let laws and Institutions say what they will, this fact will be stronger than all laws and prevail against them - The fact those who own your land will make your laws and command your liberties and your lives." James Fintan Lalor 1807 - 1849

I am hugely enthusiastic and fully in favour of wind energy. I believe it can be developed in a safe, secure, sensible and sustainable way. It can be connected underground to the grid. It can help generate up to 20% of our energy requirements with even some excess for occasional export to the UK. There is plenty of scope and room on isolated plots of large tracts of cutaway across the Bog of Allen to locate the bulk of our wind energy projects. However, that is not what is currently being proposed. The employment and economic claims being bandied about are outrageous, misleading and blatantly false. The economic, employment and environmental case for what is being pushed by the proponents of large scale wind farms is unsafe, unsound and unproven. At present there are plans being put forward to install more massive wind turbines in the midlands than are located in all of the UK. In some cases it is reckless in the extreme and being driven by greed. If everything is above board, upfront, transparent, with complete accountability and with a community dividend in mind why are all these deals being done behind closed doors in the dead of night in such a secretive and sly way? These giant wind turbines – which are set to get even bigger – are Made in China; financed from China and can be remotely controlled on a laptop from China to supply power to the UK! Where the Irish jobs and what are the benefits to our economy and our environment? This is not a local issue; it is a national policy problem and concerns us all. Be informed, get involved.

CONTACT JOHN: Seanad Éireann Kildare Street, Dublin 2 Phone: 01 618 3244 Email:

Constituency Office Bull Lane, Portlaoise, Co. Laois Phone: 057 86 34047 Mobile: 087 2509663

Web: John Whelan @SenJohnWhelan

LAOIS-KILKENNY REINFORCEMENT PROJECT IS A MISNOMER AND MISLEADING For three years now Eirgrid have persisted with misleading our community. They have never been upfront or wholehearted in imparting information or engaging in meaningful consultation. Their tactics have been disruptive, distressing and divisive. Unless they change their tune I predict their approach will lead to further unnecessary and costly delays in rolling out important infrastructure. This is nothing new for them as is illustrated in other parts of the country and ultimately it is all at the taxpayers’ expense while they remain detached and determined to bulldoze and bully their way at all costs and at any price from their Ballsbridge HQ.

Eirgrid have never been up-front with their plans for the Substation at Rathineska/Timahoe. The consultation process has been more of a con job

The proposition of a so called sub-station at Coolnabaca in Ratheniska-Timahoe is also misleading. The proposed installation is in fact a massive development on 20 acres with the capacity for between 15 and 20 hi-voltage power lines. This has little or nothing to do with upgrading the grid network to Kilkenny as is ostensibly put forward by Eirgrid. It has more to do with establishing a significant transmission hub in the midlands to take and transfer power from the 230km 400kv Gridlink from Knockraha in Cork and Great Island in Wexford onto Dunstown in Kildare as well as having the capacity to connect to the grid and transmit power generated from the 2,500 wind turbines being proposed for Laois and throughout the midlands, for potential export to the UK.

A sign of the times at Moneycross

Despite repeated efforts to engage with Eirgrid they have never been forthright about their plans and any information has to be extracted at the last minute in a piecemeal fashion so as to stifle and obstruct meaningful consultation and debate. Eirgrid also continue to wilfully mislead the public on the potential of undergrounding which despite their protestations is now economically feasible and technically possible. Some concessions in this regard would go a long way in allaying public fears and concerns. Despite their propaganda to the contrary Eirgrid have never consulted or engaged in any meaningful way in terms of the ecology, visual impact, community, cultural heritage, landscape, geology, water or consultation with stakeholders or members of the general public. One year ago on February 21st, 2012 I addressed my concerns directly to Eirgrid senior management as a member of the Oireachtas in a public session of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communication, Energy and Natural Resources. None of the issues I raised then have ever been assuaged or even addressed since by Eirgrid.

WHAT EIRGRID DID NEXT… PLANNING APPLICATION CLOSING DATE FOR SUBMISSIONS – MARCH 21ST Eirgrid have submitted a planning application in relation to the proposed Laois-Kilkenny Reinforcement Project to An Bord Pleanála. Notice of the planning application was published in the Leinster Express newspaper dated the 22nd January, the Irish Independent dated the 23rd January and the Kilkenny People dated the 25th January 2013. The planning application may be inspected free of charge, or purchased on payment of a specific fee, during public opening hours for a period of 7 weeks commencing on 1st February 2013 at the following locations; The offices of An Bord Pleanála, 64 Marlborough Street, Dublin 1.

The offices of Laois County Council, Áras an Chontae, Portlaoise, Co. Laois. The offices of Kilkenny County Council, John Street, Kilkenny, Co. Kilkenny. The application may also be viewed/downloaded at the following website: Submissions or observations may be made only to An Bord Pleanála (‘the Board’) 64 Marlborough Street, Dublin 1. Any submissions/observations must be accompanied by a fee of €50 and must be received by the Board not later than 5.30pm on the 21st March 2013.


reliance on coal and oil. But let’s not get carried away as there is a limit to what our small country with a dispersed rural population can support and sustain.


Along with Deputy Willie Penrose and Senator John Kelly I have recently met with representatives of CREWE – Communities for Responsible Engagement with Wind Energy – to hear their legitimate concerns first hand. We have also brought the issue directly to Ministers Pat Rabbitte and Jan O’Sullivan. I am also supporting Senator Kelly’s Bill which seeks to establish a statutorily binding and reasonable set-back from dwellings for the massive 185 metre larger than the Spire turbines, so as to project families from the worst effects of shadow flicker and noise from these giant and permanent installations. We will continue to press for legislation in this area as at present the situation is too ad hoc and inconsistent across the country.

The Substation was ostensibly to facilitate a Laois to Kilkenny reinforcement line, but in fact it is to cater for 15-20 new power-lines.

Claims by some proponents of wind farms are so outrageous they are unsound, unsustainable, unsafe and unhelpful. Much of what is being bandied about by those pushing wind farms and hundreds of giant turbines for Laois-Offaly, Kildare, Westmeath are ridiculously far-fetched and a load of hot-air which will ultimately damage the genuine cause of wind energy and renewable. The public are growing more and more skeptical of grossly exaggerated promises of a windfall for farmers and tens of thousands of jobs across the midlands. I too am alarmed. This approach will only serve to damage the renewable sector in the long run, fuel public opposition and sow distrust across rural communities. It is most unhelpful for all concerned and that is why I am raising these concerns. The proposals for the development of wind farms across the midlands have ballooned out of all proportion going from small clusters of turbines in remote areas and projections of 5,000 jobs and related investment to off the charts predictions of 2,500 turbines and over 70,000 jobs with more noughts still to follow it seems. The midland counties or indeed the entire country could not cope with wind farm development on the scale now being suggested by some of its advocates. It is neither economically or environmentally sustainable. It would form a blight on the landscape for evermore and lead to the next big bubble idea to go wrong. It is time now to step back and properly assess the merits of what is being proposed in a careful, considered and constructive way. Otherwise we will in time end up with ghost wind farms rusting across large expanses of our pristine countrywide doing untold and irreparable damage to our environment and the valuable visual amenity so prized by our tourist industry and so valued worldwide. In time the so-called angry men will have a field day touring their latest books chronicling another boom-to-bust episode entitled Con-Air, if we don’t put a stop before it’s too late to all this pie-in-the-sky. I commend the responsible approach of companies like Bord na Mona and their wind energy development underway at Mount Lucas, Co Offaly. There is no doubt scope for similar schemes on the vast expanse of cutaway bogs and other suitable locations. These will create some jobs, aid our economic revival, and reduce our carbon footprint and our

I would also respectfully urge farmers to be cautious of those brandishing cheque-books in their faces. There is currently an unseemly and indecent haste to get farmers to sign options for wind turbines on their lands. Some of this is being conducted in a surreptitious fashion with confidentiality clauses effectively amounting to a gagging order. In my view this is not only misleading and totally unfair to neighbouring families but lends itself to obstructing the transparency of the process and planning involved. Finally, I remain to be convinced how any or all of this wind energy can be transferred or transmitted to the national grid or indeed to the UK as is now being mooted. Sponsors of wind farms insist they are going to underground and yet Eirgrid are adamant that this is not technically or economically feasible. There are a legion of inconsistencies and unanswered questions, not least why the UK itself is shying away from and shunning wind farms despite its vast countryside, nuclear power resources and huge energy requirements. Furthermore, there is emerging evidence that the massive scale of the wind farms now being proposed for Laois and the midlands is directly connected to Eirgrid’s corporate plan, though this has to date been constantly denied. Eirgrid continue to maintain that their proposed sub-station at Coolnabaca in Ratheniska- Timahoe is ostensibly to facilitate the Laois-Ballyragget reinforcement project. Yet it comes with the redundant capacity to incorporate 20 hi-voltage power lines which would cover our countryside in a web of power lines and pylons. Connectivity for renewable energy to the national grid in Laois is referenced in Eirgrid documents as far back as 2009, and yet the company have never been upfront about this. Hopefully, the full truth and impact of what is being proposed by these wind farms and Eirgrid will emerge in the crucial oral hearings in the planning process in due course.

Minister Pat Rabbitte engages directly with John Lowry and members of the Save Rathineska Action Group in Portlaoise last year.

SPEECH BY MINISTER PAT RABBITTE TD ON WIND ENERGY at the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Ireland and the UK on Cooperation in the Energy Sector 24 January 2013 We are signing this Memorandum of Understanding today against a background of strong links, geographic, cultural and economic, between Ireland and the UK and of close cooperation and partnership across many spheres. Our hope is that this signing will be the trigger that enables developers of scale to bring forward projects to trade green power and, in the process, create significant employment in parts of this country where jobs are badly needed. While both the UK and Ireland have challenging mandatory renewable energy targets to meet, Ireland has thousands of acres of cutaway bog and extensive afforestation, as well as propitious wind resources. Quite simply, this could be a win-win for both our countries. For the last number of years, our cooperation on energy policy has been intensifying, through bilateral meetings at ministerial and official level, through our liaison and cooperation in various EU forums, through the ISLES project and through our joint participation in the North Seas Offshore Grid Initiative. This cooperation has been guided and given impetus at the highest political level and at the British-Irish Council. Our cooperation on energy policy is also set in the context of EU legislation on energy market liberalisation, which aims to create

regional energy markets first, ultimately leading to single electricity and gas markets in Europe. A number of years ago, as part of the British-Irish Council, we agreed to establish energy working groups on grid and on marine renewable energy. At the June 2011 British Irish Council summit, a programme of joint work was launched that spans the potential for renewable energy trading between the jurisdictions as well as workstreams on interconnection and market integration. The Memorandum we are signing today will affirm the two States’ shared commitment to maintaining a strong partnership on energy issues, to achieving closer integration of our electricity markets and to maximising the sustainable use of renewable energy resources. By way of background, the Renewable Energy Directive was introduced in 2009 as part of an ambitious climate and energy package that aims to secure what is referred to as “20-20-20” by 2020. This means we are working towards a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, a 20% increase in energy efficiency and a 20% input of renewable energy into our energy mix. As part of the Directive, each Member State was assigned an individual ambitious and challenging renewable energy target. The UK’s target under the Directive is 15% and is proportionately the largest increase assigned to any Member State. Ireland’s 16% target is proportionately the third greatest increase. It must be said that, to date, very few countries have made use of these co-operation mechanisms. They raise a number of technical, regulatory and economic issues. The reality is that any agreement on cooperation mechanisms must be cost-effective and must result in benefits for both states and for commercial developers.

WIND ENERGY STRATEGY SUBMISSIONS To the Department of Enviroment,Community and Local Government – In respect of review and updating of the 2006 Wind Energy Department Guidelines. by Senator John Kelly (member of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Jobs, and our Seanad Spokesman on Arts Heritage and the Gaeltacht), and Senator John Whelan, (member of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, and Labour Senate spokesman on Energy and Natural Resources.) ■ The Wind Turbine Bill 2012 (Sen. John Kelly), was introduced to cater for the human rights of people, to ensure they enjoy peace and tranquillity in their local communities, and these rights need to be protected.

Tensions are running high in the community over the divisive issue of turbines, pylons and power lines.

■ Under the Planning Development Act, the value of property is protected against actions of the state, by not having minimum distance legislation for Wind Turbines and residential properties, this act is being undermined. ■ I also question the wild pronouncements that are allowed be made by energy companies, some, who suggest we will get as many as 66,000 jobs per 1,500 Turbines, to others who say 10,000 jobs will be got for 750 Turbines! Accurate and appropriate employment figures are what the people deserve to hear, not propaganda ■ Referring to the Aarhus Convention, pre-planning engagement with local communities flies in the face of reality. Farmers are signed up to irreversible contracts and of course it’s too late for any subsequent action when they see the true reality of the situation. These confidentiality clauses are in effect gagging orders which seek to subvert the transparency of the planning process. This strategy of signing up contracts in secret, results in wholesale division of communities across the country. ■ It urgently needs to be highlighted to people that the notion we could have more Wind Turbines in the Midlands of this State, than there are in all of the United Kingdom, is just simply unsustainable. ■ There is a need for an economic and cost benefit analysis to assess the sustainability of the scale of the wind farms proposed. ■ An environmental impact study is needed to consider the damage to the environment, ecology, visual amenities and tourism. ■ There is a need to examine the plans and implications of hundreds of more pylons and powerlines in order to connect wind energy of this scale onto the national grid.

SENATOR JOHN WHELAN Bull Lane, Portlaoise, Co. Laois Phone: 057 86 34047 Email: Web: John Whelan @SenJohnWhelan