EIRGRID AT ORAL HEARING

EIRGRID’S TEAM WAS WELL PREPARED FOR ORAL HEARING

 Michael Fisher  Northern Standard Thursday 2nd June p.14

Throughout the oral hearing in Carrickmacross into the proposed North/South electricity interconnector, EirGrid had a team of up to forty people lined up to address the inspectors. Each was not present every day for the thirty-five days of the proceedings and some were relied on more heavily than others to make the case for the 400kV overhead line and 300 pylons stretching from Meath to Tyrone, through Cavan and Monaghan. They included staff members and consultants and their contributions were led by a legal team.

EIRGRID TEAM:

 THE LAWYERS

JARLATH FITZSIMONS SC is a well-known barrister practising in the area of planning and environmental law. He is a former lecturer in Law at Trinity College, Dublin.

BRIAN MURRAY SC has been a Senior Counsel since 2002 and has a particular expertise in the area of constitutional law and company law. He has been involved in many high profile cases and has appeared in inspection, restriction and disqualification cases on behalf of the Director of Corporate Enforcement. Educated at Trinity College Dublin and Cambridge University, he previously lectured in company law at Trinity College Dublin.

STEPHEN DODD, Junior Counsel is a practising barrister. He has written widely on commercial, planning and other areas of law. He is the author of the Consolidated and Annotated Planning and Development Regulations 2001/2005 (Round Hall, 2005) and the Consolidated and Annotated Planning and Development Acts 2000/2007 (Round Hall, 2008).

DEIRDRE NAGLE, Senior Solicitor, EirGrid

A highly dedicated senior planning and environmental lawyer, with extensive experience in advising on legal matters within the energy industry. A member of the GC Powerlist: Ireland for 2015. As Senior Solicitor, she has ensured the provision of a legal services across the EirGrid Group, while managing a significant case load.

EIRGRID STAFF

DES COX, Senior Planning Consultant EirGrid. He was educated at Trinity College Dublin BA Mod geography and sociology and at UCD where he obtained a Master’s degree in regional and urban planning (MRUP). He worked for three years as a senior inspector with An Bord Pleanála and was Operational Director for RPS Planning Dublin before joining EirGrid in 2010 as Senior Co-Ordinator Public Planning and Consents.

SHANE BRENNAN, Project Engineer, EirGrid/SONI. A native of Co. Monaghan, he represented the company at the information office in Carrickmacross and has been involved with the Northern Ireland end of the project.

AIDAN GEOGHEGAN, Project Manager. He played a key role in explaining why the company had chosen an overhead line and had ruled out undergrounding.

WILLIAM MONGEY, Senior Engineer, Grid Development. Responsible for the co-ordination of wayleaves.

DR MAEVE FLYNN, Senior Ecologist. Lead Ecologist in the department of Grid Development and Interconnection at EirGrid. Her role is to provide ecological expertise and support to project teams within Grid Development and to promote best practice in ecological impact assessment for projects.

FERGAL McPARLAND, Senior Programme Manager, Transmission Asset Management. An experienced senior projects manager, principal engineer and team leader with a successful track record delivering national renewable and extra high voltage transmission infrastructure projects. Senior Project Manager for delivery of Transmission System Operator (TSO) commerical offers associated with Gate 3, the group renewable processing scheme for over 3000 MW of renewable generation established by the Commission for Energy Regulation. He was educated at UCD (MBA) and the University of Bath (MSc in electrical engineering).

DAVID MARTIN, Senior Communications Specialist. An expert in public relations, he is the senior lead communications specialist at EirGrid. Over the past five years, his role has involved the management of political and stakeholder relations, strategic corporate communications and corporate social responsibility initiatives.

MARK NORTON, Manager Transmission Network Planning.

PHILIP O’DONNELL, Manager Energy System Analysis.

CONSULTANTS

ESB INTERNATIONAL

ROBERT ARTHUR, Senior Consultant, Construction. He made a significant contribution to the EirGrid case, explaining the company’s expertise over more than thirty years of erecting pylons and overhead lines. He was asked to explain details of the proposed method of construction for the pylons. He outlined how they could be built in different terrain, including bogland and on sloping ground. Started his career in 2000 working in EMC testing & EMF Human Health surveys with Compliance Engineering Ireland Limited. Joined ESB International in 2004, dealing with HV Transmission Line Conflicts. Maintained specialist work in EMF field when taking up EMF Specialist role in 2006 within ESBI. Currently High Voltage Transmission Lines & Cables Maintenance Manager within ESBI’s Asset Management Services group. Responsible for a team of 22 staff dealing with overhead transmission line and HV cable maintenance. Educated at DIT and University of Bath (MSc electrical power systems).

JARLATH DOYLE, Senior Consultant, Construction. Project Director 400kV projects. Specialises in design and construction of transmission lines; project management; tower foundation design; material testing and specification; preparation of environmental impact statements. Educated at NUI Galway (BE) and University of Limerick (MBA).

KEVIN COFFEY, Line Routing Specialist.

BRENDAN ALLEN, Senior Planning Consultant.

DR PADDY KAVANAGH, Environmental Director.

EXPONENT:

DR BILL BAILEY, Principal Scientist.

DR GABOR MEZEI, Medical Doctor & Senior Managing Scientist.

RPS:

NEASA KANE-FINE, Senior Communications Specialist.

LEAH KENNY, Operations Director & Director of Planning.

TOBIN:

DAMIEN GREHAN, Director of Energy & Environment.

JOHN DILLON, Senior Environmental Engineer.

DAIREANN McDONNELL, Senior Ecologist.

TOM CANNON, Senior Traffic Engineer.

According to Tobin Consulting Engineers, there is no doubt about the significant benefits that the North/South 400kV interconnection development will bring to the people of Ireland, north and south. It will link the power distribution network in both parts of the island of Ireland, and it will improve competition by reducing the constraints that are restricting the efficient performance of the all-island Single Electricity Market. It will improve security of supply by providing a reliable high capacity link between the two parts of the all-island transmission system; it will support the development of renewable power generation by enhancing the flexible exchange of power flows over a large area of the island and it will specifically reinforce the security of the electricity supply in the North East.

TOBIN is a key member of the consultancy team on this nationally important strategic project. The company brought their GIS capability to route selection along the approximately 60km southern section of the proposed development, screening the entire study area under all constraints such as designated conservation areas, dwellings, surface water features, cultural heritage features, geology and landscape designations. This work enabled the identification of the route corridor options that minimised environmental impact as it ensured the avoidance of the most significant constraints. The Environmental Impact Statement for the Meath section of the indicative route was linked and coordinated with that for the Cavan-Monaghan section prepared by other colleagues. Planning for this development fell under the Strategic Infrastructure Act.

TOBIN’s ornithological team undertook detailed ornithological surveys focusing on the Whooper Swan, over a number of years within Counties Meath, Cavan, Monaghan and Armagh for this project to determine the location of both feeding and roosting sites as well as regularly used flight lines between sites. As part of this study, they completed both field surveys and aerial surveys. TOBIN is the only consultancy to have such expertise within Ireland, possessing the most significant and up-to-date body of national research for this specific species.

The project has drawn its share of controversy, but the TOBIN approach, of presenting the fundamental facts, in a focussed, patient and calm manner, concentrating on the fundamental matters of concern, has been respectful and productive, according to the company. Their consultations have been, in many instances, one-to-one briefings.

AECOM:

AECOM is a large international company providing a blend of global reach, local knowledge, innovation and technical excellence in delivering solutions that create, enhance and sustain the world’s built, natural and social environments.

JOERG SCHULZE, Senior Landscape Architect. He played an important role during the hearing introducing photomontages of critical points along the interconnector route and commenting on the likely effects on the landscape, including sensitive area such as the Hill of Tara. He has over twelve years’ experience as a landscape architect. He has a comprehensive track record in managing the preparation of landscape and visual impact assessments for road schemes, transmission lines (overground and underground), wind farms, substations, quarries, light industrial developments, wave energy units and domestic housing developments throughout the island of Ireland as part of the EIA process. He is also involved on a broad range of projects including master planning and detail design of commercial, residential, tourism and civic developments throughout Ireland. He also manages the production of GIS mapping, photomontages and preparation of ZTV mapping. He has been an expert witness at oral hearings and public inquiries. He is experienced in working closely with other disciplines, stakeholder engagement, community consultations and has organised and participated in public workshops for a number of projects.

BARRY SHERIDAN, Acoustic Consultant. Environmental Engineering Project Manager with fifteen years’ experience in Noise and Vibration Specialism and Environmental Health and Safety.

KEN GLASS, Principal, Community, Tourism & Leisure, Environment & Planning, Ireland & Scotland.

ALISTAIR HENDERSON, Digital Visualiser.

INDIVIDUAL CONSULTANTS

DECLAN MOORE, Principal Archaeologist, Moore Group. He studied Archaeology and English at University College Galway, graduating in 1991. He obtained a certificate in Management Studies in 1994 and became a licence eligible archaeologist in 1999.  Since graduating he has gained over twenty years’ experience as a field archaeologist, site supervisor and consultant. He is a member of the Institute of Archaeologists of Ireland and the European Association of Archaeologists. He founded Moore Group in 2001. His professional experience stems from a comprehensive knowledge of Irish field archaeology, historical research and Irish archaeological legislation. During the hearing he was asked to comment on several sensitive areas for the proposed interconnector such as Teltown and Brittas in Co. Meath and Lemgare and Lough Egish in Co. Monaghan.

CON CURTIN, Agricultural Consultant with almost thirty years’ experience. He has assessed the agronomy impacts on several major infrastructural projects.

TOM CORR, Chartered Valuation Surveyor & Agronomist. A native of Co.Monaghan he has over thirty years’ experience in the areas of property and agriculture and possesses a strong technical knowledge across both areas. He has a major focus on providing creative solutions and ideas to client issues and projects.

PROFESSOR CATHAL WALSH, Chair of Statistics, University of Limerick & member of Insight Statistical Solutions. His research interests include Bayesian modelling, evidence synthesis, disease and epidemic models, and biomedical statistics. He has published over 100 journal publications in these areas. Professor Walsh is also a HRB Research Leader in Health Decision Science. Specific areas in which he has used his expertise are in the modelling of heterogeneity using latent variable models and in combining evidence from multiple sources. He has held visiting appointments in Bayesian groups in Brisbane and in Boston. He contributes to the statistical societies in the UK and Ireland and is currently a member of the Council and theme Director for the Royal Statistical Society. He is an advisor to the National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics on statistical methodology for Health Technology Assessment and on the Scientific Advisory group for HTA for the Health Information and Quality Authority.

MICHAEL SADLIER, Veterinary Surgeon specializing in Equine Management. He gave evidence about horses in the vicinity of power lines and drew up a report for EirGrid on equine psychology and behavior. The substantial body of research on both livestock and other animals did not indicate any adverse effects from transmission lines. There was therefore no scientific basis in the research literature to conclude that the presence of EMF from transmission lines would create conditions that would impair the health of horses or would precipitate abnormal behaviour.

DR PATRICK CRUSHELL, Director & Senior Environmental Consultant, Wetland Surveys Ireland. He gave evidence about the movements of whooper swans and other birds and wildlife. Dr Crushell established Wetland Surveys Ireland in 2007. He received an honours degree in Applied Ecology from UCC, a Masters degree in Environmental Resource Management from UCD and studied for a PhD (Environmental Sciences) at Wageningen University, the Netherlands. The focus of his PhD research was on soak systems of Clara bog, Co. Offaly. His research also took him to the Netherlands, Estonia, Latvia and Argentina. The multidisciplinary approach to his research has given him a broad range of expertise including restoration ecology, eco-hydrology, hydrochemistry, vegetation science and aquatic macro-fauna ecology. He is a Full Member of the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM), adhering to their code of professional conduct. He has been working in the area of nature conservation and ecological assessment for the past 15 years. He has worked as a consultant ecologist in the preparation of Ecological Impact Assessments on over 300 different projects for a range of organisations including government agencies, engineering firms, local environmental groups and NGOs and has appeared as an expert witness on numerous occasions. Dr Crushell’s roles include project management, site surveying, GIS data management and mapping, report compilation and editing, hydrochemistry co-ordinator and data analysis.

DR MARTIN HOGAN, Medical Doctor & Occupational & Environmental Health Specialist. He was called to comment on the effects of power lines on children with autism. Dr Hogan graduated in 1987 at UCC and trained as a specialist in Occupational Health at the University of Manchester. He is the current national specialty Director in Occupational Medicine responsible for training specialist in Occupational Medicine.
Dr Hogan lectures in Occupational Medicine and is a specialist trainer and examiner for the Faculty of Occupational Medicine of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland. He sits on a number of expert committees in the pharmaceutical industry. He is also a consultant occupational health advisor to the Health and Safety Authority in Ireland.

RODNEY FEWINGS, Aviation consultant. Former senior research fellow at Cranfield University, England.

DR NORMAN MacLEOD, Technical Director HVDC, PB Power

THE OBSERVERS

Apart from specified bodies such as Monaghan and Meath and Cavan County Councils, and the public representatives, the main observers were represented by two voluntary groups.

NORTH EAST PYLON PRESSURE CAMPAIGN

DR PADRAIG O’REILLY

AIMEE TREACEY, Chair

DR COLIN ANDREW

Co. MONAGHAN ANTI-PYLON COMMITTEE

NIGEL HILLIS

MARY MARRON

MARGARET MARRON

ALLEN MCADAM

The Bord Pleanála Inspectors who will now report back to the Board after the eleven weeks hearing that began in March were:

BREDA GANNON

DEIRDRE MCGOWAN.

 

 

 

 

INTERCONNECTOR DAY15

This section dealt with geology, hydrogeology, soils and water

CRITICISM OF GEOLOGY REPORT

Colin Andrew, an experienced geologist from Ardbraccan Co. Meath who is also landowner along the proposed route for the power lines and a supporter of the North East Pylon Pressure Campaign made a scathing critique of the environmental impact assessment submitted by EirGrid during an hour-long submission. He concluded that because the EirGrid planning application failed to address and include various important details it was in his professional opinion fatally flawed and inadequate. It was materially deficient, wrong, and thus incomplete and clearly unfit for purpose.

He claimed the geology report showed a poor standard of reporting with confused and inaccurate use of geological terminologies. There was a total absence of site investigation studies to appropriate standards, with no evidence of sites inspected and a failure to conduct hydrological flood risk assessments.

Dr Andrew claimed there was a failure by EirGrid to assess the potential for contaminated ground and unstable or reactive bedrock issues. He told the presiding inspector there was a lack of knowledge of the depth to bedrock and of the materials below the surface they proposed to excavate. The assessment in his view showed a lack of knowledge of the depths of excavations that would be acceptable for load-bearing and thus a lack of knowledge of the quantities of material to be transported from or to sites, with the attendant impact on the numbers of HGV movements.

There was, he said, a failure to address issues associated with mining operations such as blast vibration. Another failure was to assess the impact of overhead power lines on geophysical mineral exploration methods, along with an absence of any geological or hydrological assessment of access tracks.

Although these failings had been identified for EirGrid during their previous application six years ago, Dr Andrew said the company had failed to correct the gross inadequacies of the impact assessment.

He claimed the suitability of individual leg block foundations for the proposed 299 pylons (each pylon has four) had not been assessed in terms of the individual sites along the line. Instead, EirGrid had operated a “one design fits all” policy.

MONAGHAN CO. COUNCIL VIEW

Monaghan County Council senior planner Toirleach Gourley also called on Eirgrid to provide a site specific plan for each of the proposed towers, rather than outlining general measures. His colleague consultative chemist John Paul McEntee said under the EU water framework directive a site specific plan was required showing the location of all drainage outfall and the location of any temporary waste water treatment facilities.

Mr Gourley continued to press EirGrid on its plans for the removal of waste material from individual tower sites and queried details shown in a table included with a diagram of the amount of concrete to be used for the construction of the various types of tower foundations.

Robert Arthur of ESB International explained that the construction of the base of each pylon with four legs and the latticed steel tower was ‘a relatively modest development’. He said the company did not do site specific designs but had forty years of experience in designing such infrastructure throughout Ireland.

EirGrid admitted that during the preparation of the Environmental Impact Statement there were a number of constraints in terms of getting access to sites. Only 25% of the pylon sites had been surveyed. Notwithstanding the constraints, a robust evaluation of the likely significant effects of all aspects of the proposed development, both in respect of the line and the towers, had been undertaken for the purpose of preparing the environmental impact statement.

The working area for construction of a 400 kV tower would extend to 30 x 30m all around the footprint of the base of the tower, with the exception of Towers 166 and 168 close to Lough Morne, which had larger working areas proposed to account for additional excavations required to stabilise ground adjacent to the foundation locations. The minimum width of these working areas is proposed to be 41m at Tower 168 and 34m at Tower 166.

Each of the four corners of the lower part of the tower legs would be separately anchored below ground in a block of concrete. Approximately 10,500m3 of material would be excavated as part of the proposed development in the Monaghan/Cavan area, a figure that was subsequently challenged by the planner from Monaghan County Council.

EirGrid set out how impacts on the existing ground conditions would be restricted to the tower locations, temporary access routes, guarding locations and stringing locations. The magnitude of the impacts at the tower locations was considered to be low. Temporary access tracks consisting of aluminium road panels or rubber matting would be required at approximately nineteen tower locations. It was not proposed to use stone roads or timber sleepers as part of the proposed development.

A report by consultant hydrogeologist John Dillon acknowledged that the construction phase of the proposed development would impact on geological conditions through the use of the temporary access routes and excavations required for the tower bases. The company’s environmental statement said during construction the potential impacts to the underlying soil and geology from the proposed works could derive from accidental spillages of fuels, which could impact the soil, bedrock and groundwater quality, if allowed to infiltrate to ground.

EirGrid said the tower locations had been selected to avoid known areas of lacustrine deposits, intact peat and cutover peat where possible. Intact peat was not identified at any tower location along the line route including Cashel Bog. The predicted impact on the soils and geology was considered to be long term and negligible, according to the company. Mr Dillon said there would be monitoring of sites after the pylons had been constructed.

Figures produced by EirGrid continued to be queried by Toirleach Gourley of Monaghan County Council. When he suggested that the amount of soil to be removed from sites could be as high as 35,000 m3 based on his calculations, he was informed by Robert Arthur of ESB International that was absolutely not the case and such an amount was “totally out of the realms of possibility.”

 

 

 

 

 

INTERCONNECTOR DAY8

This section dealt with construction, including temporary access routes

Following a request by EirGrid’s lawyer Brian Murray SC, the presiding inspector allowed a change in how the modules had operated until then. The County Monaghan Anti Pylon Committee had been due to begin Tuesday’s proceedings with comments on the plans for construction of the 299 pylons in the Republic. Robert Arthur, transmission lines manager with ESB International who are acting as consultants for EirGrid, made a presentation in which he gave details of nineteen modifications to temporary access routes for tower sites. These are in addition to six routes which had been identified by an EirGrid representative at the start of the hearing.

MODIFIED ACCESS ROUTES

For all these ‘modified access routes’ he said they would be making use of existing access onto land and no new land holdings would be involved. He said 95 landowners had made submissions by January when they had been asked to identify issues regarding temporary access routes of which there were 584. But no direct contact had been made with any land owner.

In a document produced for the inspectors Mr Arthur described what he said were mapping anomalies that had arisen primarily from discrepancies in the translation of site vantage survey records onto the Environmental Impact statement drawings. In other words, while an access route might have been identified from an existing field gate, the access route from this existing gate to a tower location was incorrectly captured on the EIS mapping.

HEARING A FARCE AND CHARADE: NEPPC

A barrister for the NEPPC Michael O’Donnell BL told the inspectors the oral hearing had turned into a farce. He said the hearing could not proceed any further and called for it to be abandoned. He claimed that a new public notice would now have to be issued about the development and this was the only appropriate manner under the planning act. The responses by Mr Arthur had been entirely inadequate and inappropriate, he said.

Counsel for the NEPPC Esmond Keane SC described some of Mr Arthur’s replies as an insult to the integrity and intelligence of every member of the public. Some replies were ‘rubbish’ and he had not given a meaningful response. Mr Keane said it appeared EirGrid had produced utterly radical changes and was planning to go through to the pylon construction points using access to private homes in a number of cases, despite the company’s own environmental guidelines. He said there were many difficulties with the planning application, including some technical drawings that had been provided for the route design plan and profile. On one of them the scale was shown as a tiny bar at the top of the page. It also left ordinary members of the public guessing where ground level was shown.

This was different he said from the detailed drawings of the proposed towers and conductors produced by ESB International for the corresponding application in Northern Ireland by the EirGrid subsidiary SONI. In Tyrone and Armagh, stone roads were proposed to be constructed on just over half the 102 tower locations.

He also questioned Mr Arthur in detail on a proposal for washing down vehicles to remove mud and organic material from vehicles exiting tower sites. The ESB International representative said it was his understanding that vehicles would be washed down before they entered the temporary work area around the pylons. “That doesn’t make sense”, Mr Keane remarked.

Padraig O’Reilly of the NEPPC said the hearing had developed into a charade second time round and called on the inspectors not to go ahead with it. Unless Bord Pleanála responded in a meaningful way then his group would not be taking any further part.

Mary Marron of CMAPC said nineteen landowners did not know where access roads would be going over their land. They had no faith in any sense of fairness if the oral hearing continued and the Monaghan group fully backed the NEPPC stance.

EirGrid lawyer Brian Murray SC said the hearing should go ahead as only 19 out of 584 access routes were involved and EirGrid could begin notifying the affected landowners during the next week. The second part had been set aside to hear from individual landowners.

Michael O’Donnell BL for the NEPPC claimed this amounted to an acknowledgement by EirGrid that the hearing could not proceed, as it would now be necessary to issue a new public notice so that all affected landowners along with neighbours and members of the public could be informed.

But Jarlath Fitzsimons SC for EirGrid pointed out that development consent was not required for access routes. These had been included in the documentation. They formed part of the project and must be looked at by the Planning Board when they were considering the totality of the application. There was no requirement for a new notification, in EirGrid’s view.

The presiding inspector said she would give a decision on whether the hearing would continue when the proceedings opened on Wednesday.