Speech of Dara Calleary TD, FF Dáil Motion on Eirgrid Grid 25 proposals

EirgridI wish to thank my party colleague Michael Moynihan for putting his motion and for allowing the house the opportunity to discuss an issue that is causing serious concern and division across the country.

It is regrettable that the government, in spite of the Minister not ruling out a potential independent enquiry, will divide the house this evening even though many members of the government parties support the requests for the various Grid 25 projects to be placed underground.

The Minister’s has acknowledged that the motion has raised “important issues”, but his rationale for opposing it is that the consultation process is still underway and has been extended.

The difficulty we have with this “consultation” process is that it is showing all the signs of having been set up – in the public mind – to lead to one outcome.  In other words, the aim is to progress the project over ground regardless of the wishes of people across the country.

A number of key decisions were made in advance of this consultation by EirGrid in planning the Grid25 project:

 

  • EirGrid decided that the capacity of the new power lines would be 400kV
  • Eirgrid decided that the upgraded network would be carried in single routes.
  • Eirgoirs decided that this would be an DC line
  • EirGrid decided against underground lines due to perceived cost and initially technical grounds although having been challenged on this-they have reversed their technical objections

The decisions in how the consultation process is framed need to be clarified as they have resulted in the public having little influence in the final planning decision of the project.

The concerns in relation to the preconceived outcome of this process are accentuated when you consider that on the Gridwest 25 project at least and presumably on the other projects within Grid 25, Eirgrid are using the period of the process to progress their plans.

In my own area, Eirgrid and their agents have been calling to landowners in relation to the Gridwest project.

This seems innocuous enough however they doing this in spite of been asked not to, in spite of signage on properties telling them not to enter, and they are making multiple phone calls to land and property owners. A number of people have spoken to me of feeling “harassed” by the Gridwest project team.  This is not what one expects during a consultation process, and this is why we feel the government needs to proceed without delay to establish the independent review.

An independent review will have to examine a number of issues.

The figures of difference between moving overwound and underground have moved and shifted since 2008 and now seem to be at “three times” as high.  At one stage I understand they were 5 or 6 times as high.

However that is Eirgrid costs and benefits only.

It excludes the impact on other industries of over grounding these lines.

Our tourism industry comes specifically to mind. In a response to my PQ, Fáilte Ireland have expressed their concerns about the impact on landscape of the Grid 25 plans. Gridwest involves 400 pylons, 40 meters high across Co Mayo. Do we honestly think that Europeans will leave one valley of pylons t come to another?

Have Eirgrid factored this in to their cost benefit analysis?

These projects will have an impact on property values across the country. The chairman designate of Eirgrid was clear yesterday that he wouldn’t like pylons near his house. Yet Eirgrid expect thousands of householders across the country to do so and suffer the consequences to the value of their property – and potentially their health.

Has this been factored in to Eirgrids cost benefit models?

An international review should be tasked with these economic questions and indeed with others that could be framed in consultation with various stakeholders

There continues to be a huge doubt across the country in relation to the health aspects of this project.

Eirgrid point to the IARC and subsequently the WHO analysis saying the impact is minimal. The WHO report did not conclude that magnetic fields cause any long-term adverse health effects.

Eirgrid’s document also states that National and International health and scientific agencies have reviewed more than 30 years of research and none of them have concluded that exposure to EMF from power lines is a cause of long term adverse effects on human health.

But the document also states:

However, agencies have recognised a statistical association between estimated higher long-term exposures to magnetic fields and childhood leukaemia in epidemiological studies but have not been able to rule out the contribution of chance, selection bias and confounding factors to these associations with reasonable confidence.

Combine this statement with the work of the E U Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR) updated last week:

Although a fair number of studies have been published since the last opinion, the conclusion drawn there stands: there is still a lack of adequate data for a proper risk assessment of static magnetic fields. More research is necessary, especially to clarify the many mixed and sometimes contradictory results.

And there remains massive ambiguity around the health situation.

When it comes to human health there can be no “buts”.

Eirgrid is asking people to live adjacent to pylons, to live under them if their house happens to be within Eirgrid’s route, for children to go to school and spend 6 hours a day adjacent to them if their school happens to be on Eirgrid’s route.

Not good enough Minister. We need that research before we can support Eirgrid asking people to live in these conditions.

There is a broader picture in terms of the national renewable strategy and people’s concerns re the Grid 25 project.

Eirgrid is not the only state company involved in a project of this scale. Board na Mona, Coillte & ESB are also involved. This will involve further large scale installations been built in rural communities across the country. They will build hundreds of wind turbines in addition to those already been planned privately.

The amount of power to be generated will be far in excess of what we require and is the subject of export plans and some agreements.

The economist Colm McCarthy has some strong stuff to say about the financial support available for these plans through government-he describes it as a NAMA for wind- and he strongly believe that there is a connection between the grid investment plans and the Eirgird plans saying that

“there would be little need for continuing grid investment were it not for the expanding wind industry.”

Eirgird insist however say that none of the Grid 25 investment is to do with export.

Again, an issue that requires independent analysis.

There are too many variables to allow this project to proceed further without an independent analysis.

The so called “consultation” process is failing people all around the country and frankly there is no confidence in the communities that are directly affected by the Eirgrid plans in their ability to respect communities.

Tonight is a chance for those who represent these communities to stand up for them.

 

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