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03 Jul 2022

Laois electricity substation dispute at a standoff as residents make new claims

esb laois

RTS Action Group prevent ESB entering

Residents opposed to the building of a big new electricity substation in Laois are picketing the site where the ESB and Eirgrid wants to recommence work more than a decade since the project was launched.

The Ratheniska Spink Timahoe (RTS) Action Group have also called out the company in a strongly worded statement over the plan for the substation which is part of a €110 million reinforcement line project.

Members of the RTS group prevented a convoy of ESB and contract vans entering the site at Coolnabacca in recent days.

They were angry to see ESB vehicles return to recommence work.

They also cite an agreement made in the office of former Minister Charlie Flanagan last year that before any progress could be made on the project, the future plans for the development must be fully revealed to the community .

“ESB and Eirgrid seem to have totally disregarded the agreement with our TDs as ESB and subcontractor vans descended in convoy on the site last week trying to force their way in. The approach was extremely heavy handed and unnecessary. ESB vans with CCTV cameras and security staff were being used as a means to intimidate our community. The community has been left with no choice but to peacefully protest on a daily basis to try and protect our water source and environment,” they say.

The project has planning permission but the residents say it represents a risk to a major underground water supply. They have renewed concerns about the amount of powerlines that will feed electricty to the hub.

They say the substation project manager confirmed to them on May 14 that the project will be open to new connections from wind, solar and other power projects.

They say this contravenes commitments given by Eirgrid at the Bord Pleanala hearing in 2013.

“Eirgrid strenuously denied at that hearing that the project would be used for future connection of powerlines by committing in writing that the substation would be used ‘neither in whole nor part for the future connection of renewables,’”, said a statement.

RTS say the plan to feed renewable power to the station “makes a mockery” of the process.

They say the community is faced with huge levels of “dishonesty and deception”.

They say they will continue to protest at the project which they call 'an act of environmental recklessness'.

They called on the three Laois TDs and the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications to hold ESB / Eirgrid responsible for “misleading the planning process”.

“Tell them to pull back from their current intimidatory actions and scrap this project.

“Our community is fully committed to making sure no work is started on site.

“We will not be intimidated by Eirgrid/ESB, we will not be threatened or bullied and furthermore we have extended our campaign to blocking access to the existing 400kv and 110kv powerlines,” they say.

“It is blindingly obvious to anyone who has objectively scrutinised this project that Eirgrid have totally botched this attempt at project development, a catalogue of errors beginning with the fact that they chose to place such a massive development over a highly vulnerable aquifer, the source of clean water for 10,000 Laois people,” said the campaign.

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