I am currently the victim of a winter bug so the blog this week is limited to reporting back on previous stories.
In previous blogs I wrote that in response to the 1200 submissions on the Green Paper on Energy Policy in Ireland, the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources had convened a single workshop on 21 October, scheduled to last for 90 minutes.
I was not invited to that workshop, but one of my readers was invited and very kindly provided this excellent synopsis of the event:
Workshop on Priority 3 of the Green Paper on Energy Policy in Ireland.
“Planning and Implementing Essential Energy Infrastructure”
Venue: Gibson Hotel, Dublin
Date: 21 October 2014
In general, it could be contended that the DCENR utterly failed to provide a meaningful public consultation on the following counts:
1. The DCENR emailed invitees in advance to advise, “We will not be issuing an agenda”. This meant that attendees, many of whom had travelled for several hours to attend, had no idea of how the workshop would be conducted.
2. The Chief Technical Advisor, Bob Hanna, stated in his opening address that the seven questions that he posed in the Green Paper would be discussed in sequence under the moderation of the facilitator. However, the two large screens simply displayed the text “Moderated Discussion; Facilitated by Henk van der Kamp; Proceedings are being recorded”. At no time did the screens identify which of the seven questions was under discussion to enable the attendees to focus on the current topic.
3. Bob Hanna also stated in his address that the Minister had announced these interactive workshops to enable people to air and hear each other’s views. A common thread from both the representatives of renewable energy industry and the wider public was the need to improve transparency and openness to reach mutually agreeable solutions. This objective was not realised as the facilitator failed to match up those speakers where a commonality was evident.
4. The venue that DCENR organised had a maximum capacity of 90 people, despite the fact that the DCENR received several hundred submissions on this topic. Bob Hanna advised that the Eolas seminar was not an integral part of the DCENR workshop. There was consequently no need to select a venue that was not capable of accommodating every member of the public who went to the trouble of making submissions to the DCENR on Priority 3.
5. The planned duration of the workshop was 90 minutes, with 25 minutes taken by the opening and closing addresses by Bob Hanna. The remaining 75 minutes was available for discussion of seven questions, which equates to eleven minutes per question. The facilitator asked speakers from the audience to cut down the length of their contribution due to limited time. The limited time was entirely attributable to the time DCENR had planned for the workshop.
6. The moderated discussion started addressing Question 16 (Energy infrastructure improvements to facilitate integration), but soon drifted off into areas unrelated to Question 16, or even to Priority 3. The facilitator did not attempt to focus or manage the contributions from the audience, and his only articulated yardstick was whether contributions applied to the Green Paper itself. This allowed time to be wasted on unrelated discussion points such as energy conservation that had no relevance to the 7 specific questions posed by Priority 3.
7. The combination of limited time, disparate and irrelevant contributions and lack of effective moderation made the entire discussion difficult to follow, and impossible for people in the audience to reflect upon. After an hour and twenty minutes, the facilitator advised that “as the clock was ticking”; he would not take any further questions from anyone who had previously voiced a question. Members of the audience with valid points to make were then denied further ‘interaction’.”
I would suggest that this farce might be an item on the agenda of the Aarhus Compliance Committee before long.
Submissions on Aarhus
In another blog I highlighted the fact that the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government had invited submissions from the public on a review of domestic provisions implementing Article 9 of the Aarhus Convention with a view to “improving clarity and ensuring on-going effectiveness of the implementing measures.” See http://www.environ.ie/en/Publications/Environment/Miscellaneous/FileDownLoad,38541,en.pdf
Similar to their counterparts in the DCENR, it would seem that this Department does not view all submissions as being equal. It has been discovered that certain submissions were not displayed on the Department’s website. See http://www.environ.ie/en/Environment/AarhusConvention/PublicConsultation/SubmissionsReceived/
The department failed to display the very critical submission made by Pat Swords for example. This omission has been rectified after an exchange of increasingly polite e-mails.
I would therefore ask anybody who made a submission to please check that your submission is displayed on the Department’s website. If it is not, contact the Department immediately and have the omission rectified.
The health implications of EMF and high-power lines
Finally, a series of blogs highlighted the deliberate misinformation concerning the health effects of high voltage power lines perpetrated by EirGrid in conjunction with the Office of the Chief Scientific Advisor and the DCENR which finally resulted in EirGrid grudgingly making some minor adjustments to their website.
News of this governmental skulduggery has now reached the attention of English groups and the British media:
The highly influential English pressure-group “Revolt” had this to say in their Chairman’s report for October 2014:
“Evidence on EMF effects continues to grow, and the complexities and possibilities increase. An epidemiology study showed a decline over time of an association with proximity to powerlines, which might reflect population mobility or more ubiquitous EMF exposures confounding the association. Both the magnetic particle mechanisms and the radical pair mechanisms have gained in evidence and in potential for effects at very small fields. The charity Children with Cancer held some important workshops this year to focus the evidence. The Royal Institute of Navigation Animal Navigation Forum, with its collection of thousands of research papers, continues to access new studies with effects at very small field levels.
The old idea of “biophysical implausibility” has been used to undermine precaution, and has been abused by misrepresentation as “impossibility” (not least by the Irish government). It is looking more and more churlish. With a fuller view of practical evidence of real biological effects, notwithstanding uncertainty of complex mechanisms, the possibility of human health effects at the levels of fields from powerlines seems more and more plausible. Indeed, the idea of zero biological effect seems implausible.”
Onwards and upwards.