At a meeting this morning, the Icelandic government approved a resolution, allowing work to resume on a power line project from the Þeistareykir geothermal power plant to the industrial area Bakki, near Húsavík, North Iceland, RÚV reports. The resolution was authored by PM Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson and Minister of Industry and Commerce Ragnheiður Elín Árnadóttir.
A dispute had arisen between the government and Landvernd, the Icelandic Environment Association, about whether environmental laws passed less than a year ago should be retroactive and, thus, able to halt projects already approved. A decision by a ruling committee for environmental and natural resource issues was being awaited, but the project was temporarily halted last month.
The project planned at Bakki is PCC’s silicon plant, but the initial environmental assessment assumed that an aluminum smelter would be raised there. The latter requires much less energy than an aluminum smelter would have, and, thus, Landvernd argues, the power line project that has been approved exceeds the one needed in terms of size.
Landvernd had, therefore, requested that a new environmental assessment be conducted to prevent or minimize environmental damage. In particular, the association wanted underground cables to be considered as an option in order to bypass valuable lava fields.
According to Ragnheiður Elín, previous project permits will be revoked and new ones issued instead. Thus, work on the project that was halted last month will now resume. She stated that everything had been done to solve the dispute and that this had been the only solution. What influenced the government’s decision, she added, was a request yesterday by three municipalities in the affected area for the legislature to intervene.