EU court to assess environmental responsibilities of wind farm
The Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) is to be asked to decide issues concerning the extent of Coillte's environmental responsibilities in relation to grid connection works for a wind farm in Co Laois.
The issues concern whether mitigation measures can, as a matter of law, be considered at the screening stage of a particular development, a High Court judge said when he agreed to refer the case.
Their determination will involve considering requirements of the EC Habitats Directive, Mr Justice Max Barret said.
The judge noted it was argued by objectors to the wind farm the possible extinguishment of the Nore Freshwater Pearl Mussel, a species thought to be unique to Ireland and the River Nore region, "may be at stake".
It is difficult to think of an instance where the objectives and provisions of the Habitats Directive "could be more fully engaged, and require more carefully to be observed", than where possible extinguishment of a species may be at stake, he said.
Coillte previously secured permission for 18 wind turbines and associated development on lands at Cullenagh, close to the villages of Timahoe and Ballyroan.
That permission was challenged but was upheld by a 2015 Court of Appeal decision.
People Over Wind and environmentalist Peter Sweetman, who opposed the permission, later challenged a July 2016 determination by Coillte, made under 2011 regulations giving effect to the Habitats Directive, that grid connection works to connect the wind farm to an ESB substation in Portlaoise did not require a stage two appropriate assessment.