Tuesday 31 March 2009

Power plant poses no health risk, says firm

THE DEVELOPER of a 200 megawatt (MW) gas turbine power station proposed for east Galway says the project will not pose a health risk to local residents and will be environmentally sustainable.

Joe Hodgins, former manager of ESB’s Moneypoint coal-fired power station, was responding to fears voiced by over 200 schoolchildren, teachers and parents at a protest outside Galway County Council offices this week.

Galway West TDs Frank Fahey (FF) and Noel Grealish (Ind) and Senator Fidelma Healy Eames have backed residents’ calls for the proposed plant at Cashla, near Athenry, to be withdrawn.

Mr Fahey, who said he had submitted an objection, said “the company has not engaged in proper consultation with the local community and local residents are vehemently opposed to it”.

Mr Hodgins, managing director of Constant Energy Ltd in Loughrea, Co Galway, lodged the planning application several weeks ago for the 200MW open-cycle gas turbine plant at Cashla, Barrettspark, Co Galway.

The “peaking” power plant is designed to work with wind energy in providing back-up supply when wind power is intermittent.

Residents say the proposed plant poses a “risk to health, the environment, safety” and will cause “visual obtrusiveness, noise pollution, contamination of the ground and water supply”.

Anne Carey, principal of Scoil Mhuire National School in Lisheenkyle, Co Galway, said the site was less than 1km from the school premises.

“It is not a suitable location and I only learned about this proposal last Thursday – a week before the closure of submissions to the local authority,” she said.

She said several hundred people had signed a petition and a number of objections were lodged. The school organised three buses to transport 196 primary school pupils, younger siblings, parents and teachers to the council’s offices on Thursday, which was the deadline for objections to the planning application.

The residents’ group, “People before Profit”, argue that the proposed location for the plant is in a heavily-populated rural area, with 500 to 1,000 households and four primary schools in a three-mile radius.

“The proposed site is to be located on agricultural land which has not been zoned for any type of development,” the group said.

A similar project proposed for Claremorris, Co Mayo, was “successfully opposed” by residents, the group said. They added that residents in Ladera Ranch in California took their objections “all the way to the US Supreme Court to successfully overturn a decision to allow the building of a similar power station”.

The residents said they feared emissions could “lead to serious health issues and complications for the residents in the surrounding areas, especially for those already suffering with asthma, allergies or other respiratory illnesses”.

Mr Hodgins said the fears were groundless, and a voluntary public consultation had taken place last week in co-operation with the local development committee.

“This is a new and more efficient design of plant, run on natural gas, which will not run when wind energy is being fed into the grid,” he said. “In this way, it will actually contribute to a reduction in emissions nationally.”

The company’s plans were in the early stages, he said, as an integrated pollution prevention control would have to be applied for from the Environmental Protection Agency if planning permission was granted. A grid connection had been applied for, he said. “We would be very happy to work with the local community on this project,” he added.

Irish Times


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