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Power Line Bill Reported to ESA

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Power Line Bill Reported to ESA

Photo: Dagmar Trodler

The environmental associations Fjöregg and Landvernd (The Icelandic Environment Association) have reported a proposed legislation regarding power lines to the Bakki industrial area, near Húsavík, North Iceland, to the EFTA Surveillance Authority, ESA, according to a statement from Landvernd. In the associations’ view, the law, which the Icelandic government wants to enact so that work can resume on the proposed power lines, would be a violation of the right of environmental associations to appeal the decisions of authorities to a court or another independent arbiter.

The ruling committee for environmental and natural resources currently has the project permit for the power lines, as well as an environmental assessment from 2010, under review, at the request of the environmental associations. The committee expects to issue a ruling during the week of October 10-14.

The project was found to violate environmental laws aimed to protect lava fields, but the government, concerned about delaying the project, decided to intervene and determined that the law did not affect projects already approved.

The legislative intervention in the dispute aims to recall the project permits issued for the power lines and replace them with new ones, in order to prevent the ruling committee from interfering. In the environmental associations’ view, that would undermine the right to appeal, and violate the European Economic Area agreement (EEA), as specialists have pointed out in the Icelandic parliament.

Ólafur ÞrösturStefánsson, head of Fjöregg, states that ESA has confirmed its willingness to look at the case, if and when the bill passes into law.

Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson, CEO of Landvernd, states the association is also looking into the possibility of reporting the case to the supervisory committee of the Aarhus Convention and to file a claim at the European Court of Human Rights, if the bill is passed into law. Law Professor Kees Bastmeijer, from the Netherlands, has advised the Industrial Affairs Committee of Alþingi that the proposed law is likely to go against the European Court of Human Rights regarding due process.

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