Smith expresses disappointment with Minister over North-South Interconnector plans

– Minister evades direct questions –

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan Brendan Smith has criticised the Communications Minister Alex White for refusing to consider a motion by Monaghan County Council calling for the cessation of work on the North-South Interconnector so that the project could be undergrounded.

The motion came on foot of comments made by Eirgrid’s Chief Executive during a meeting of the Oireachtas Communications Committee, when he admitted that the undergrounding of the lines was technically feasible.

Deputy Smith commented, “I am extremely disappointed by Minister Alex White’s stance on this issue.  Despite submitting a range of Parliamentary Questions raising concerns about the fact that the underground option was not being considered, he failed to give any straight answers, choosing to evade the specific questions.

“The North-South interconnector is an extremely contentious issue here on the border.  People have grave concerns about the fact that the Government appears to be content to press ahead with the overhead lines option, without giving due consideration to the possibility of undergrounding them.  This is despite the fact that the head of Eirgrid told the Oireachtas Communications Committee that it is technically feasible to put the lines underground.

“It is extremely unfair that the Government is continuing to refuse a review of the North-South interconnector plans, especially in light of the fact that the other 2 Grid Link projects are being reconsidered.  People here feel as if they are being ignored by this Government, which is refusing to take their concerns on board, and is now even refusing to give credible answers to Parliamentary Questions, and has now effectively passed the buck back to Eirgrid.

“I am very disappointed with the Minister’s evasive and hands-off approach to this issue.  There has been a substantial reduction in the potential cost of the undergrounding project, yet Minister White is refusing to reconsider.  This is not good enough and the people of Cavan and Monaghan will simply not accept it.   I will be continuing to put Minister White under pressure to review this project to ensure a safe and secure energy supply for people living on the border”.

Ref No.: 22498/15] * To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will instruct EirGrid to cease all works on the North South Interconnector project and instruct the State owned company to underground the project as requested in a Motion passed by Monaghan County Council at a recent meeting, his plans to give the views of the Members of Monaghan County Council urgent consideration; and if he will make a statement on the matter. – Brendan Smith. * For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 9th June, 2015. (1606 Received on 4th June, 2015.) Ref No: 22499/15 To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on the recent decision by EirGrid to submit a planning application for the North South Interconnector without consideration being given to the options of undergrounding this project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. – Brendan Smith. * For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 9th June, 2015.     Ref No: 22499/15 Proof: 1201 REPLY Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Alex White)

I propose to take Questions Nos.1147 and 1148 together. I have taken note of the Motion referred to by the Deputy in his Question. In January 2014, an Independent Expert Panel (IEP) was established to oversee the integrity of the process being undertaken by EirGrid to report on comprehensive, route-specific studies of overhead and underground options for both the Grid Link (GL) and Grid West (GW) projects. While the North South Transmission Line project (N/S) is outside the IEP’s Terms of Reference, the IEP did agree, on foot of a request by my predecessor, to provide an opinion on the compatibility of the methodologies, to be employed on the GL and GW projects with what had already been done on the N/S project up to and including 2 May 2014, being the date that the IEP decided to examine the N/S project. Having considered and discussed all of the material, the Panel issued a statement on 1 July 2014, indicating its unanimous opinion that, in all material respects, what had already been done on the N/S project is compatible with the methodologies being employed on the GW and GL projects. On 27 March 2015 EirGrid published a new independently peer reviewed draft Strategy which allows for the achievement of an optimal balance between the competing demands of publicly consulting on necessary network development, choosing the best emerging technology options for that development, and minimising new build. The draft strategy found that there remains a clear need for the North South transmission line, and that the existing proposal for a 400kV overhead line remains the most appropriate solution for the project. I understand that EirGrid intends to lodge the planning application with An Bord Pleanála today (9 June). Following submission of any final application to An Bord Pleanála in respect of each of the two projects, a further consultative process will be open to interested parties. Section 182A of the Planning and Development Act, 2000 (as amended) provides for the making of submissions in relation to an application for consent with respect to a development comprising electricity transmission infrastructure. A timeframe of not less than six week of public consultation is provided for under the section