Peat extraction ceased by Bord na Móna
Environmentalists have called on county councils to take action against 'rogue contractors' in a statement that welcomes the end of peat harvesting by Bord na Móna.
Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) say the decision by Bord na Móna to end harvesting marked a ‘major milestone’ in Ireland’s progress towards controlling greenhouse gases and biodiversity loss.
FIE says it brought the issue to the planning systemin 2009, commissioning a satellite survey in 2010 that provided the Department of the Environment with a list of 126 potential extraction sites of over 30 hectares in 18 counties for which local authorities had no records.
They add that a 2013 survey undertaken by the Department through Local Authorities found most of these required planning permission. They say that in two presentations to the EU Petitions Committee in 2011 and 2012, the operations were held to be the ‘largest unregulated land use in the EU’.
FIE add that a 2013 ruling by An Bord Pleanala that industrial extraction was no longer exempt from planning permission was challenged by the operators in the courts, leading to a five-year delay which ended in 2018. The environment group say that legislation then brought in proposing to authorise continuing extraction was struck down by FIE in 2019, leading to 8 applications for ‘substitute consent’ by Bord na Mona to An Bord Pleanála which were under challenge FIE.
FIE claims it has been informed today that Bord na Móna is withdrawing all eight applications due to be heard next week in the High Court, stating that they will ‘cease any remaining harvesting preparations, including planning and substitute consent applications.’
FIE Director Tony Lowes said that other operators have given no such assurances, and the pace of the contractors’ excavation of whole bogs for the mushroom industry continues in counties and on bogs where An Bord Pleanála has made it clear that the operation needs planning permission.
"Ending peat extraction has long been known to be the ‘low hanging fruit’ of greenhouse gas reductionsas it is not only are responsible for emission when the bog is drained but again when the peat is used," said Mr Lowes.
He added that local authorities must take action "to bring an end to the actions of rogue contractors" to accord with the State’s decision to end their own activities. He added that the State must make sure that not only the workers but those in fuel poverty are supported through a just transition to a sustainable society.